What does it take to bring an airline to its knees? Uncompetitive union-negotiated labor contracts and a fundamental unwillingness to recognize that in a down economy, unions have a hard time raising wages without destroying jobs.
That was a lesson that unions refused to learn in the case of American Airlines, which yesterday announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making it the last large U.S. full-fare airline to seek court protection from creditors. American was forced to take that action when the airline pilots union refused to budge on its demands for massive signing bonuses and wage increases. The airline’s competitors are flying high in profits after restructuring union contracts in their own bankruptcy proceedings.
Unions also didn’t learn any lessons after taxpayers bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, and then-White House “auto-czar” Ron Bloom gave the UAW preferential treatment in the restructuring process despite their contracts being largely at fault.
And, this is a lesson that still has not penetrated the walls of the Obama White House. The President’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) want businesses to be unionized at all costs, even if it means harming both workers and the economy. They’re trying to make it happen by ramming through measures that would help expand unionization in America.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Workplace Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN). The bill protects the right of workers to decide whether or not to unionize. That’s a right that the NLRB would like to drastically weaken.
One tack the Obama NLRB is taking is implementing “snap elections” which Heritage labor expert James Sherk says are designed to prevent employees from making an informed choice about unionizing.
The policy shortens the election period from six weeks to as little as 10 days, depriving companies of their ability to explain to workers the darker side of unionization, including strike histories, dues increases, and union corruption. Meanwhile, union leaders would have months to try to sell workers on their side of the story through rose-colored glasses.
The NLRB is set to vote on the new rule today, but it’s possible that their efforts could be forestalled if the lone Republican on the board resigns or withholds participation in the vote, depriving the NLRB of the quorum it needs to issue regulations.
Their earlier gambit — known as “micro unions” — redefines who gets to vote on unionizing a particular workplace. Instead of workers with a shared “community of interest” forming a single bargaining unit and voting together on unionizing (think cashiers, shelf-stockers, and greeters at a grocery store), now the Obama NLRB has allowed unions to form cherry-picked bargaining units of their supporters. Sherk explains how the new rule would impact workers:
If most workers at a store oppose unionizing, but a union has majority support among the cashiers, it can now form a union of just the cashiers. The shelf-stockers and greeters would not get a vote.
Unionizing brings risks to the entire workplace. The Obama NLRB has allowed unions to selectively disenfranchise the workers who do not want to take that risk.
All of this is occurring despite the fact that only one in 10 non-union workers say they want to unionize. What’s more, unionized companies invest less, are less competitive, and create fewer jobs than non-union companies. Given these facts, it’s no surprise that union membership has shrunk to just 7 percent in the private sector. Likewise, though, it’s not surprising that the Obama NLRB is digging in and trying to foist unionization on all companies while it still can.
Kline’s bill attempts to prevent that from happening by guaranteeing that union elections are not held until workers have at least 35 days to hear from both sides, ensuring that employers have at least 14 days to find legal counsel before any legal proceedings begin, preventing unions from cherry-picking which workers can vote, and protecting privacy by letting workers decide which contact information to release to union organizers.
Kline says, “It’s very clear to me that we’re seeing the rights of employers and employees under attack.” And he’s right. Workers have a right to organize unions, but they should have a right not to organize them as well. Reforms like the ones Kline is proposing help protect that right.