The big labor push

President Obama continues to pretend that jobs are his top priority.His $447 billion jobs bill failed the Senate this past week, so now the White House has promised to push it in bite-sized chunks. At the same time, though, the administration is pushing radical employment policies that are squashing private business, slowing job growth and hampering economic recovery. These efforts must stop. Consider the shenanigans of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). A few weeks ago, the NLRB ordered the nation's employers to post a notice by mid-November informing workers about their rights to form a union and bargain collectively. The poster must be prominently displayed, 11" by 17", and posted in multiple languages if more than 20 percent of a company's workforce doesn't speak English. This dictate grossly exceeds the NLRB's powers under federal law. It also violates employers' First Amendment rights, by forcing them to spend their own money to post NLRB's pro-union message. And it will impact more than 6 million companies, mostly small businesses. Employment is at crisis levels, yet the NLRB sees no problem with imposing new and unnecessary rules on employers. This is hardly new. The pro-union camp's first shot came in July, when the NLRB issued a formal complaint against the Boeing airline company. Back in October 2009, that firm opened up a new production line in South Carolina to build its new 787 Dreamliner. Demand for the Dreamliner was far outstripping the production capacity of Boeing's primary facility in Washington state. The NLRB is taking issue with that investment in South Carolina. The Washington location is unionized. South Carolina's is not -- state workers decertified the International Association of Machinists in September 2009. Regulators claim opening the South Carolina plant is actually a retaliatory move to punish workers at the Washington facility for strikes. Such retaliation, if it occurred, would violate federal law. Yet there's no evidence that Boeing is punishing anyone. Its Washington line already employs 25,000 unionized workers. The company has not taken steps to cut down on those workers' numbers or hours. The South Carolina facility is simply a much-needed expansion of production capacity. Nonetheless, the complaint will force Boeing to delay the production of the Dreamliner and ring up huge legal bills. And if the NLRB is actually successful, the South Carolina facility will have to close, throwing an estimated 1,000 people out of work. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor recently proposed a change in reporting requirements for employers. Currently, firms have to disclose to federal officials any outside consultants they hire to meet with workers and attempt to persuade them not to unionize. The Labor Department wants to dramatically expand the scope of the disclosure requirement to cover virtually any contact an employer has with a labor relations consultant "regardless of whether or not the consultant has direct contact with workers," as the administration's press release announcing the proposal puts it. So, for instance, if a company hires a third party just to provide legal advice on union organizing, both management and that consultant would have to file a report with the federal government. That report would have to include a huge amount of information, including fees paid by the employer and the name and billing rate of every other client the consultant works with. If employers and consultants fail to comply in full, they incur stiff penalties. An all-encompassing disclosure requirement like this will have a chilling effect on employer speech. The act of exercising their right to be heard during an organizing campaign becomes significantly more costly -- and highly stigmatized. Jerry Rogers is president of Capitol Allies and founder of the Six Degrees Project, an independent, nonpartisan effort that promotes entrepreneurship, economic growth, and free-market ideals.

********** Published: October 27, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 28