Tag Archives: national labor relations board

Rulemaking that Matters on Deportations and Union Elections

NLRB EmblemLafayette   Often the devil is in fact in the details, and two important efforts at pushing hard on the details within the vast bureaucracy of governmental affairs matter hugely for people, making these initiatives worth following closely, and piling on to support them for reasons both large and small.

            In one situation from the top, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has revived efforts to modernize and make more efficient the timelines and rules that govern some election procedures.  Will this lead to a drastic surge in private sector union organizing?  Of course not, despite the fact that all corporate interests will now unite to “protest too much.”  Some of the changes like finally giving the union telephone numbers and email addresses as part of the Excelsior Underwear requirements are decades overdue frankly, and have only been denied to unions in order to make not only pre-election outreach harder, but constant contact and representation more difficult and expensive, if not impossible, as well.  The more critical proposal in the announced rule changing is not just a quickening of the average election period target to 25 days from the current mid-30 day average, but allowing workers to “vote first,” while companies challenge later, preventing the often meritless challenges and delays by management lawyers as their standard go to election tactic.  Adopting this rule won’t change the game or lead to a surge of union success, but it does matter and makes sense regardless of the hue and cry.

            On the other hand a rule making proposal coming from the bottom that could make a huge difference for millions is the 41-page petition proposed by the National Day Labor Network (NDLON) to the Department of Homeland Security to defer deportations.  The NDLON effort seeks to finally get DHS to stop its record breaking level of deportations of undocumented immigrations during the Obama Administration, arguing that ““it is sound policy and consistent with the President’s authority to make a categorical determination to prioritize resources away from the estimated 8 million” people who would qualify for legal status, and possibly citizenship, under a plan approved by the Senate last summer.”   This is one that not only makes plain common sense, as in why not prioritize criminals as opposed to people who will likely under any Congressional compromise, be allowed to stay in the United States, yet all the evidence, and some yapping by ICE agents themselves, indicates that time and money are being routinely wasted in throwing out the net too broadly, regardless of what they might claim at headquarters. 

            The President has been all over the map on this issue, giving the impression once again that the White House is suffering from management drift allowing DHS to create policy on the ground no matter what is said at the top with the victims irreparably harmed with families split asunder and lives uprooted.  The deportation issue is so severe that United We Dream and other DREAMer organizations who have been the standard bearers in aggressively pushing courageously for reform, are also reportedly being moved to diluting their demands for reform in hopes of even a modest deal with the Republicans as long as it stops the deportations.  

All of which leaves us on the horns of a dilemma.  The President’s politics on immigration have been to be a tough guy on border control and deportation to throw bones to the Republicans, and to use the same strategy of accelerating deportations to hold the progressives and the left in check as well.   It’s not working on the right at all, but it’s dividing all of the reformistas badly, since the pain is even more real than the politics.

If we have to follow the rules, it matters if they are real and balanced, and here are two cases where changes are overdue.  Hasta pronto!

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UAW Breaking Through in Transplants in Chattanooga

VW-Chattanooga-plantNew Orleans   The Volkswagen company filed with the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a quick election among its 1600 workers in Chattanooga to determine whether or not the United Automobile Workers (UAW) should represent workers at the plant.  The UAW has confidently indicated that it has majority support among the workers based on the number that signed authorization cards asking for an election.  The company has been neutral in the campaign, and in a very rare step in union organizing has allowed the union access inside the plant to campaign among the workers.  Though the election is several weeks away, I’m calling this now for the UAW, as a critical victory for the union and for workers everywhere, especially in the South.

            Obviously, the Germany-based, Volkswagen is a well-known auto company, selling cars here for decades, but with this plant and a UAW victory, this will be the first foreign auto production company, or transplant as the union calls them, successfully unionized anywhere in the country.  Tennessee, northern Alabama, and parts of Mississippi have become the “new Detroit” for foreign auto manufacturers in recent years partially thanks to generous state tax incentives and subsidies, which added up to more than a quarter billion in Tennessee for example, and highly calculated union avoidance strategies, often making them high wage employers for their areas and committed anti-union environments.  In fact the main opposition to the UAW’s organizing seems to have come from non-workers, chambers of commerce, right-to-work committees, the Koch brothers, and the usual suspects with an in-plant committee hawking their position.

            Transplant organizing drives and elections have been painful for the UAW for years, but Bob King, UAW’s president and former organizing director, and his organizing staff, seem to have played this plant perfectly by going global.  From earlier reports the union has spent significant time in Germany appealing to Volkswagen’s union representatives, who thanks to Germany’s labor world, actually have seats on the board of the company and have been clear that they don’t want the Tennessee plant to be part of the race to the bottom for any workers. 

The company want a works council, which is the dominant, labor-management participation scheme in Germany in the United States, and to have one in the United States given U.S. labor law requires an election.  Without one it’s a section 2 violation for creating a company dominated representation process or in plain language without an election, Volkswagen would be creating a company union through its works council. 

Part of this is simply spin though.  The UAW worked the organizing strategy inside-out in Germany and outside-in in Tennessee in winning a majority.  Every organizer’s experience and countless academic studies have established that if the employer not only doesn’t oppose the union, but indicates support for worker representation, that matches perfectly with the majority of workers’ desires for representation as regular polling continues to establish even in these hard times for unions.  All of this adds up to an overwhelming victory for the UAW.  I’m not sure it will be equivalent to Seattle beating Denver, but this is one where the UAW will walk away with a trophy they have been seeking for decades.

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