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The NLRB Hearings 7/8/2011
Just a Public Show
By: Ricardo Torres

The NLRB is “listening” to both sides of table on the issue of making elections a more “efficient” process. Both management and unions are waiting for the results of the NLRB hearings to find out what changes are going to take place. These hearings are suppose to be a forum for interested parties to express their concerns about how a 10 to 15 day election cycle will affect them.

For unions, these hearings are a joyful celebration; in their eyes the changing of key articles in the National Labor Relations Act vindicates their, almost unbridled, support of the Democratic Party.

For management, a shortened election process will deliver a devastating blow. A shortened cycle will open the door for an onslaught of organizing activity.

Publicly, unions say they are simply looking for fair treatment of the workers. In all reality, they are looking for much more. Unions are looking for a public political hanging of management as an institution. With these forums, unions are confident management will stand at the gallows. AFL/CIO President, Richard Trumka, has led this charge for extreme change in the National Labor Relations Board, which will change the NLRA as we know it. Trumka has been very open in his promise to pull political support for President Obama and other Democrats on the Hill in upcoming elections if drastic changes don’t happen on the labor front. I have written many times over the past year about the “inside deal” unions worked on with Obama relative to making these changes.

When I was a union official I spent much of my time in Washington D.C. lobbying Congress where we pushed very hard for the union’s legislative departments to blacklist many politicians for not supporting labor. Just as many people simply underestimate or don’t understand the intensity of the mistrust/hate unions have for management, they also don’t understand how much influence union leadership has on the American political machine. This influence has reared its ugly head with these NLRB forums.

Unions say management has too much time to “intimate” employees into voting no. Unions do not mention how much time they have to mislead/scare the employees into voting yes. Most people don’t know that unions spend many months hiding in the shadows, going unnoticed by management before blitzing the company leadership with a petition. If the NLRB wants to limit time management can spend educating employees, it would seem that the same should be said on behalf of the unions. Yet it appears that this is not in the NLRB’s agenda.

The union organizer’s job is to win at any cost. I have seen many organizers promise everything under the sun to win. Do they have repercussions for blatantly lying to workers? The answer is no.

I have seen unions say they will help immigrant workers get papers and assistance in getting their families into the country. I have seen the results of organizers who lied about being able to protect them from deportation. I have also seen massive raids on workers who did not openly support the union as a show of power by the union who made sure authorities knew of their illegal status as consequences for non-support. When I was a union official (and still today) it was a general rule that an organizer needed to neutralize non-supporters. Some organizers took that rule way too far,

Low-level union organizers know that the only job security they have depends on winning elections. There is very little ethical oversight in union drives; “Just win the damm election.” This common attitude, plus the belief the company and company supporters are expendable, has a very dramatic effect on organizing tactics. As an Organizing Director, I knew we were not going to unionize a facility without the employees taking direction and the lead in the organizing activities. They had to believe they had an absolute legal “right” to organize, get on the soap box, take over union informational meetings, and get involved in all of their coworkers issues with management. It was their (the employees) job to challenge everything management said and build up levels of angst and anger. They were responsible for forcing management to react. Management’s reaction would serve as the fuel to the fire in a union campaign to ensure a union victory.

Everything a union does from the moment they meet with a targeted group is a mind game, building them to a fever pitch before the election. I had my organizing team use everything they could to influence employees and/or use against them to get their vote. We would obtain a mini bio on everyone for this purpose. Our department had connections in every CLC (Central Labor Council) for additional support. We had people in OSHA offices ready to file complaints, the same with EEOC complaints. We also always pushed a work to organize tactic and questioned every order given by management. I have seen large organizing campaigns last for over a year, and last but not least the union can break a company buy going after it year after year until the company can no longer afford to fight them. Why don’t we propose a limit on how much time a union can spend organizing and how often they can return?

The unions have been complaining for years about management abuses. Unions love to point out Kate Bronfenbrenner’s survey where she states that in 40% of union elections, employers commit unfair practices. Bronfenbrenner also points out that 47% of the ULPs were filed pre-petition. This is a joke. Ms. Bronfenbrenners is a tool for the unions. I met Bronfenbrenner many times where she was always giving a speech at one union function or another. I remember when she wrote “Organizing to Win.” Everyone was very angry with her for exposing union tactics which allowed management to gain an inside glimpse into their game book. In fact, many union officials were ready to cut her loose but she was too big of a propaganda tool to lose. Her research was financed by labor and her questions were very misleading. Union’s use this data to prove “their” point. Bronfenbrenner (and the unions) knew what the results would be before the survey was conducted because it was designed to bring pro-union results. I received many of her “surveys” for my organizing teams to fill out and the questions were somewhat amusing as they were so obviously loaded for responses that would give the union traction. What organizer was going to say he lost the election because he didn’t know what he was doing or because the workers simply didn’t want a union? Of course he/she was going to blame management’s and their “anti-union” tactics.

During these “hearings”, union leadership (along with Bronfenbrenner and other pro-union members of academia) are telling the NLRB that the current system is not “fair” and that workers need these changes to level the playing field. Management is stating their case as well but that very well may be falling of deaf ears. The truth of the matter is that we have 50 years under a law designed to level the playing field. There is nothing fair about the changes being discussed in these hearings. It is not fair to the employees who will lose the opportunity to make an educated choice based on arguments from both the union and management. It is not fair to the employer who loses the opportunity to plead their case to the employees. It is “fair” to a union machine that is desperate to stay alive and rebuild a core membership that has dwindled in recent years.

If you look at the changes the NLRB is set to make then you will see the issues that are most important to labor. If the NLRB has their way, unions will get a quick election (maybe even within 5 or 10 days of the petition) and you can bet that other changes are on the way.

Many people thought that the most important part of the EFCA bill was the card check provision. Unions already win 68% of elections but that number is going to grow much higher with these probable new changes. In all reality, to the union, the most important part of EFCA was the mandatory first contract or binding arbitration. You can bet that unions are not going to be satisfied with the speedy election cycle. They want more, and my sources at the AFL/CIO tell me this is a done deal. These hearings are just a public show to give the impression of fairness but these changes will happen.

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