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NLRB Bulletin Boards: E for Effort, F for Results

New Orleans    nlrbsteppingonworkers The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a rule that would require companies to post on their bulletin boards a notice informing workers that they have the legal right to organize.  Conservatives, strong adherents of a philosophical belief in “total war” when it comes to class issues, are crying like stuck pigs about this harmless notice which would do nothing more than state the law.  They know this is thin soup, but are howling like revolutionaries are at the company gates banging for entry.

It is true that such a notice might come as news to many workers.   With union density now hardly more than 7% in private sector workplaces, the vast majority of American workers have no clue about unions and certainly have never been members of any union in their careers.  Nonetheless it is doubtful whether such a notice is not going to organize a single new worker any more than the other required notices on such bulletin boards do a whole lot to stop wage theft despite minimum wage notices or access workman’s compensation benefits regardless of the size and bold print of such notices.

In fact it’s a safe bet that the only statistic that might be lower than the 7% union density would be the percentage of workers who have actually had 5 minutes to stand in front of such a bulletin board or for that matter actually could find it anywhere in the typical “hide-and-seek” of the workplace.  The notice postings from the NLRB advising workers that an unfair labor practice has been found and alerting them that the company has agreed to not continue to break the law are good examples of how impotent such notices are in correcting illegal behavior by companies.

I’m not saying it’s irrelevant or doesn’t matter.  I am saying that none of this makes much of a difference to anyone.  The companies and their buddies know this, so they will scream and holler to send a real message to the NLRB more powerful than anything on a bulletin board, that they will find anything and everything tooth and nail.

For the NLRB’s part it’s better to try and do something rather than nothing, but they surely know a bulletin board notice is not something that adds teeth to the law, but more like an admonition to use floss for the teeth you want to keep.  So, E for effort and F for any likely results.

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Post Mortem: Labor Back to the Board

NLRB Seal

NLRB Seal

New Orleans The Republicans are clear that unions have a target on their backs.  Labor law reform was never alive, especially not carrying the weight of “card check” recognition or mandatory first contract arbitration, and is now relegated to the dreamscape.  They promise worse to come, and they have the votes to do it.  Not necessarily in Congress where the President and the Senate ought to still be worth something, but unfortunately in the states where they eroded important areas of labor strength in the Midwest with a governor in Ohio and pickups in Indiana and Illinois, and potentially even the West, if they take the Governor’s chair in places like Washington, and even in Pennsylvania where they also acquired a big ticket governor.

The most effective labor organizing over the last several decades has involved winning bargaining rights and good contracts for public employees at the state level as well as winning bargaining rights for informal workers providing home health and home day care in numerous states.  The requirements for these strategies to work match strong worker support with compliant political will.  The recession has already cut the number of public and publicly supported jobs in both of these areas which will mean a loss of more than a million dues paying members over the next several years, and that also erodes one of our last bulwarks of strength and, frankly, resources.

All of which will either drastically shrink the map for new organizing or force unions back to the boards, which in this case unfortunately means figuring out a way to survive and grow under the arcane and difficult folkways and rules of the NLRB.

Piling up the bad news was the announcement of a close loss by the flight attendants union for representation rights at Delta Airlines by a couple of hundred votes.  The good news, thanks to the Obama administration, had been the fact that a union under a National Mediation Board election no longer had to win by a majority of all employees in the unit, but only by a majority of all of those voting (similar to the NLRB procedures).  This defeat was a setback since it was the first big election under the new rules, but there are a number of other elections pending, so there’s hope here.  No doubt the Republicans will put this on their list as part of the rollback, but it won’t go anywhere.

Many unions didn’t need to wait for the memo and have already started slowly moving in this direction realizing there was little hope for reform.  According to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA):

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