For all of the pro-union leanings of President Obama’s National Labor Relations Board appointees, the NLRB is, unwittingly, about to do something that those of us in the preventive labor relations field have been doing for years: Educate employees that they don’t need to pay dues to a union in order to exercise their rights.
In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act. The cornerstone of the law, which applies to most private-sector workplaces with two or more employees, is what is known as employees’ Section Seven Rights.
Section Seven is as follows [emphasis added]:
Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title].
What many employees (and employers) don’t realize is that employees without a union have the exact same rights as they do with a union and, often times, even more. As a result, every year, thousands of employees get duped into unionization and paying union dues when, if they knew their already-existing rights, they might never entertain the thought.
Employees without a union have the right, when there are two or more, to complain to their employer, to negotiate agreements, to work in concert for the betterment of their workplace on issues of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment…Again, all without a union.
Now, Barack Obama’s NLRB is going to advertise this for America’s union-free workplace.
According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the NLRB’s Chairman, former union attorney Mark Pearce is pushing to advertise the rights of employees to work without unions:
“I want workers to know that if they have grievances they have a right under certain circumstances to voice them,” Mr. Pearce said.
In the next two weeks, the NLRB is set to roll out a Web page explaining “concerted activity” and highlighting cases involving unlawful punishment for it. It also plans pamphlets in English and Spanish that will be distributed through worker-advocacy groups and sister federal agencies, such as the Labor Department. NLRB officials will address the issue in speeches and appearances on radio and television.
The NLRB’s Mr. Pearce said the information campaign isn’t related to declining union membership. “This is a message that the NLRB has been trying to get out for years. What’s new is that, for a variety of reasons, people are more open to hearing it than ever before,” he said. A similar agency effort in 2006 didn’t take hold as intended.
While some employers will bemoan this move by the NLRB and others who, based on a lack of knowledge of the NLRA, unintentionally run afoul of the law, those that are more sophisticated will see the advantages of being able to explain to employees how preferable (and cost effective) it is to work directly (individually, or as a group) with their employer, without employees having to pay hundreds of dollars per year to an organization whose agenda (and politics) may be harmful to employees, their jobs and their company.
As importantly, for those currently-unionized workers, once they realize that they can exercise the same rights that they currently have with the union without paying a union, there will likely be more unionized workers looking for a way to decertify their union. [Information on how to decertify unions can be found here.]
As the old saying goes: Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free?
While some will disagree with the NLRB’s effort to educate employees about their ability to exercise their rights without a union, most should see the union-free advantages to the NLRB’s move.
In fact, Republicans may also realize the benefits of the NLRB’s move as more and more employees realize they don’t need to pay unions, which will result in less money going to union-bought Democrats.
For once, whether they realize it or not, the union appointees within the Obama NLRB aren’t appearing to be the sock puppets for union bosses.
“Socialism has no place in the hearts of those who would secure the fight for freedom and preserve democracy.” Samuel Gompers, American Federation of Labor, 1918