Today, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed from Coalition for a Democratic Workplace chair Kristen Swearingen York titled “Stealing workers’ secret ballots: A ‘card-check’ sequel that’s worse than the original,” which reads:
Summer is the season for bad sequels. This time, it’s a handful of U.S. lawmakers — led by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., kowtowing to union bosses ahead of the 2020 election by trying to revive the old, audience-panned “card check” bill from last decade, with a host of new villainous additions.
Those unfortunate enough to recall the original 2005 release of the deceptively named “Employee Free Choice Act” can’t forget its main antagonist — “card check” — a provision that would strip workers’ right to vote privately on whether to unionize their workplace. Opinion polls consistently showed that employees, including those in union households, routinely rejected this affront to workplace democracy. EFCA went beyond killing voting rights, however, with a provision that would have given unelected, unqualified, and unaccountable third parties plenary power over private contracts via “binding interest arbitration.”
It didn’t work, fortunately. Despite aggressive union lobbying and Democratic control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, EFCA was unpopular and had to be abandoned.
Fast forward to the present and Sanders, Warren, and likely 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have introduced the cynically mislabeled “Workplace Democracy Act.” This is just more than just a devious effort to revive card check and binding interest arbitration. It also includes provisions to strike right-to-work legal protections for employees in 28 states, curb opportunities for people to work independently through gig economy platforms or contractor roles, and codify the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial joint employment standard that continues to threaten our nation’s small and local businesses.
If these points aren’t concerning enough, the bill would also interfere with attorney-client confidentiality and make it harder for businesses, and particularly small businesses, to secure legal advice on complex labor law matters.
Finally, it would strip away “secondary boycott” protections, which prevent unions using their exemptions from antitrust laws and immunity from some state laws from targeting business for anti-competitive reasons and purposes other than organizing.
While this all may just seem like a “Fantasia” for union lobbyists, the threat is real. Organized labor almost convinced Congress to pass EFCA in 2010. And if we learned anything from the eight years of anti-business decisions by the Obama-era National Labor Relations Board, bad labor policy does nothing to promote robust job growth nor to increase wages.
It is conventional wisdom that a Democratic presidential candidate cannot emerge as the party’s nominee without extensive support from labor unions. And union officials have made signing onto the Workplace Democracy Act the ante to be considered for labor’s war chest that still holds hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nonetheless, supporters have remained fairly quiet about the bill. It’s not surprising, considering the reception the public gave it last time around.
The media outreach is part of a six-figure, ongoing campaign by CDW to warn of this “Workplace Democracy Attack.”
WASHINGTON—Several business trade groups filed a lawsuit Monday to block the National Labor Relations Board’s new rule that would speed union-organizing elections, alleging the board overstepped its authority.
The plaintiffs alleged the rule adopted last month—one of the biggest procedural changes to the federal organizing process in decades—violates federal law, in part by curtailing an employer’s right to communicate with employees. The groups, which filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, say they collectively represent millions of employers and human-resource professionals at companies that would be subject to the rule when it goes into effect on April 14. The five plaintiffs include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, and the Society for Human Resource Management.
A divided NLRB adopted the rule on Dec. 12 in a 3-2 vote; the board’s Democrats supported the measure, saying it is intended to streamline union-organizing elections, while its two Republicans dissented. The rule drew backlash from businesses and congressional Republicans, who said it could deprive employers of time they need to tell workers why they think a company should remain union-free and limit their ability to launch timely legal challenges.
While the final rule didn’t establish a specific time frame in which union elections would occur, some legal experts have said the rule could shorten the time between a formal call for a union-organizing vote and the election itself to 25 days or less—almost two weeks short of the 2013 median of 38 days, or 59 days in contested cases. The plaintiffs said in their lawsuit that the rule would allow elections to be held in as little as 14 days after the employer is first notified of the election petition.
An NLRB spokeswoman declined to comment.
The plaintiffs allege the rule violates the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law the NLRB enforces in most private-sector workplaces. They said it wrongly restricts employers’ ability to litigate over such issues as whether certain employees are eligible to vote. The plaintiffs also said the rule “impermissible curtails” an employer’s right to communicate with employees by “substantially shortening” the period between an election petition and the election itself, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.
“The Board failed to meaningfully consider numerous legal, policy, and economic factors,” the plaintiffs said, calling the adoption of the rule an “arbitrary and capricious” action. The plaintiffs alleged that the NLRB failed to explain why the rule making was necessary, and said unions already win more than two-thirds of all representation elections.
“Unless vacated, held unlawful, and set aside, the Final Rule will adversely affect the rights of Plaintiffs and their members,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiffs said while the vast majority of employees at companies affected by the rule aren’t represented by a union, there are active union organizing campaigns at many businesses. The plaintiffs said their members expect that employees at these businesses, or the unions that seek to represent them, will file election petitions soon after the rule becomes effective in April.
Business groups will again sue the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over a controversial rule they say will speed up union elections and give organizers the upper hand in the workplace, sources say.
The NLRB last year reissued what business groups refer to as the “ambush” or “quickie” election rule, after it was originally struck down in federal court. But business groups complain the rule does not give them enough time to prepare for union elections.
After successfully challenging the original rule in federal court, business groups are hoping for a similar outcome this time around.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which includes the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, and Society for Human Resource Management, is preparing to file a federal lawsuit against the NLRB as early as Monday afternoon.
“That’s in the works, and we’re pretty close to filing,” a source who is a party to the lawsuit told The Hill.
The business groups are seeking to roll back what they see as one of the most devastating regulations to come from the NLRB during the Obama administration. They say the rule would not only leave management with little time to prepare for an election, but would also rush employees to make a decision.
Currently, it takes an average of 38 days to hold a union election, according to the NLRB.
But business groups speculate that, under the new rule, elections could happen in as few as 10 days.
“Shortening the time frame before an election robs employees of the ability to gather the facts they need to make an important and informed decisions like whether or not to join a union and denies employers adequate time to prepare,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said when the rule was finalized last month.
But labor officials say the new rule will prevent management from unnecessarily delaying union elections.
“[This] means corporate bosses will have fewer opportunities to cheat you out of your right to join together,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said.
A federal court overturned an identical NLRB rule a few years ago for procedural reasons, because the rule came from a board that did not have a full quorum. Now that the NLRB is fully staffed, experts say it is less likely that a court will overturn the rule again.
The NLRB reintroduced the rule last February and finalized it in December.
According to reports, Harry Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats are looking more and more like they are going to push the nuclear option on behalf of unions bosses in order to confirm Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board nominees–including his two constitutionally-challenged “recess” appointments.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday signaled that the Senate remains headed toward a historic remake of its rules this week to ease the confirmation of some of President Barack Obama’s nominations.
If you are one the millions of other Americans who see Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats action as nothing more than kowtowing to union bosses, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace has launched a website for individuals who are opposed to union bought and paid for politicians changing Senate rules just to get their way.
Contact your Senator now to tell Harry Reid Don’t Nuke The Senate.
The Senate filibuster deal that scrapped the nominations of two unconstitutional labor appointees will not alleviate the pro-union imbalance on the board, according to union watchdogs.
Just hours after Democrats announced that President Barack Obama withdrew the nominations of the National Labor Relations Board members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, the politically powerful AFL-CIO handpicked two replacement nominees, according to Politico.
Conservative labor activists and attorneys said the replacement nominees, former AFL-CIO attorney Nancy Schiffer and Democratic NLRB attorney Kent Hirozawa, could maintain the anti-business climate that has defined the NLRB under the Obama administration.
The new picks immediately drew the ire of the National Right to Work Foundation, which has successfully challenged the NLRB’s authority after President Obama illegally used his recess authority to appoint Block and Griffin to the board.
“Even though the American people, who are outraged by this [rogue] NLRB, were not included in these discussions, Obama’s NLRB appointments will pave the way for at least three more years of the very forced-unionism giveaways union bosses failed to obtain through the legislative process,” NRTW president Mark Mix said in a statement. “Both NLRB nominees, who are practically guaranteed to be confirmed, are staunch pro-forced unionism advocates.”
Former NLRB general counsel Jerry Hunter said he is not confident that Obama pursued a moderate course in replacing Block and Griffin in the five-nominee package that will undergo Senate confirmation.
“Block and Griffin were part of a pro-union triumvirate that threw to the wind any objective decision-making,” said Hunter, who is helping to challenge the authority of the board in federal court. “If the administration permitted the AFL-CIO to pick the two new proposed nominees, then this would simply be a continuation of the administration’s policy of permitting organized labor to pick Democratic nominees for appointment to labor agencies.”
Republicans negotiated the withdrawal of Block and Griffin on Tuesday in order to prevent the Democrats from using the nuclear option to lower the confirmation threshold to a bare majority. The GOP allowed the White House to choose two labor attorneys as part of the agreement, though sources emphasized that Republicans promised a fair hearing, rather than confirmation.
“The basics [of the agreement] are that two new NLRB nominees are submitted and the Senate gives them a fair hearing—which is what [Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [(R., Ky.)] and Senate Republicans called for as early as January of this year,” a top Senate aide told the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka led the charge to pressure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to “pull the trigger” on the nuclear option last week. The union is a major powerbroker in the Democratic Party, spending more than $30 million on the 2012 election.
AFL-CIO did not return multiple requests for comment.
Mix had harsh words for the Republican lawmakers who struck the deal, which will continue to undermine workers and employers.
“After Sen. John McCain [(R., Ariz.)] apparently struck a backroom deal today with Senate Democrats to sell out independent-minded workers, the Obama White House wasted no time meeting with union bosses to determine who they want on the agency to enact their radical agenda,” he said.
Senate Democrats have pledged to rush the two new nominees through confirmation by August, when the NLRB chairman Mark Gaston Pearce’s term is set to expire. If the Senate fails to confirm at least three nominees, the board will not be able to issue rulings in labor disputes.
Obama nominated two Republicans and Pearce to serve in the board’s next term, which could mean a GOP majority if Schiffer and Hirozawa are not confirmed.
The Democratic majority moving forward will have vast implications for labor law in the United States. The Supreme Court will review NLRB v. Noel Canning a January appeals court ruling that declared Block and Griffin’s appointments unconstitutional and could invalidate every board decision issued since January 2012. It would be up to the new board to re-issue decisions on all of those cases.
“Even if Noel Canning comes down, you could have some Obama appointees that aren’t any better, from an employer viewpoint, than the last. They could rubberstamp all the [Block and Griffin panel] rulings,” said David Phippen, a labor attorney with Constangy, Brooks, & Smith.
Activists who campaigned against the nuclear option, as well as Block and Griffin, said they hope the new nominations will not mimic the behavior of the current board.
“We hope to see people that have the ability to be neutral arbiters of labor law—Obama’s struggled to put forward nominees who meet that criteria,” said Geoffrey Burr, chairman of the Center for a Democratic Workplace (CDW).
CDW, which is working to preserve the secret ballot in union election, spent thousands of dollars on ads in swing states to pressure senators to preserve the 60-vote threshold on executive appointments in the lead up to the Tuesday’s deal. Burr emphasized that the CDW has yet to decide whether or not it will support Schiffer or Hirozawa.
Senate Republicans claimed victory for the deal, saying that it restored the power balance to the Capitol.
“This agreement allows the Senate to make clear that this president, or any president, cannot thumb his nose at the Senate’s constitutional role in our system of checks and balances,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), ranking Republican on the Senate Labor Committee.
The nominees will appear before the labor committee next Tuesday morning.
Business groups hailed the Senate’s failure to detonate the “nuclear option” Tuesday.
Not only does the filibuster remain intact for now, but two controversial National Labor Relations Board nominees will be withdrawn. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) — which advocates for secret ballot elections in union organizing — said in a statement that the compromise “preserved the integrity of the Senate’s role in nominations.”
The group also called the result “a tacit admission that the President’s nominations of two illegally recess-appointed individuals led to unnecessary tension.”
“The agreement reached today preserves the Senate’s constitutional role in advising and consenting on executive nominations,” said Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for the pro-business Workforce Fairness Institute, in a statement. “It also ensures the nominations of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block will be withdrawn as they were appointed while the Senate was in session and not in recess.”
CDW had planned a six-figure ad campaign called “Don’t Nuke the Senate” to avert the nuclear option. The initiative would have targeted Democratic senators in Louisiana, North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, West Virginia and Alaska.
The group’s chairman, Geoffrey Burr, told The Daily Caller News Foundation he feared that the proposal would “open the door to using this to pass all sorts of things that people on both the right and the left wouldn’t like.”
CDW praised the Senate deal to allow a vote on Richard Cordray’s nomination to the Consumer Financial Protection Board in exchange for bumping Block and Griffin and hoped that the process of new labor appointments “can begin in good faith and in earnest.”
Similarly, some union leaders were displeased. Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, was quoted by The Hill as saying the jilted NLRB nominees were “definitely tossed under the bus.”
Burr stressed the potential future ramifications in a statement to TheDC News Foundation: “Every time you do something like this, when you skirt or break the rules, it makes it easier to do the next time.”
Not all conservatives were happy with the compromise, which Business Insider described as a win for Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to change the long-standing filibuster rules — known as the “nuclear option” — faces a new threat.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), a nationwide coalition of more than 600 nonprofits, associations, and other organizations, launched a six-figure campaign Monday called “Don’t Nuke the Senate,” to raise awareness among both constituents and lawmakers about the potential catastrophic effects the filibuster change could have.
At present, the Senate requires a 60 person vote to overcome a filibuster. Reid threatened last week that he may lower the threshold to 51 votes to speed along certain votes in the Senate — specifically a vote on the president’s controversial, pro-union National Labor Relations Board nominees.
“This is about making Washington work regardless of who’s the president,” Reid said last week. “The constant obstruction in this chamber has gone on long enough.”
The political party in power has often threatened the use of the “nuclear option” in order to speed long their own nominees and agenda, though they have never actually carried out those threats, for fear that when they lost power, the inability for the minority party to filibuster would be insurmountably damaging.
The White House came out in support of Reid’s threat of the filibuster change for the purpose of approving presidential nominees last week.
“The fact is…the situation has gotten exponentially worse since republicans gained — in the last several years under Senator McConnell’s leadership of the Republican minority, the obstructionism has doubled. The number of days nominees have to wait, the kinds of obstacles and gridlock created by this refusal to take up and consider and confirm highly qualified nominees,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing.
President Obama, as a Senator, spoked out against the partisanship of the nuclear option and warned of the irrevocable damage that could be done.
Today, however, there are number of presidential nominees waiting for approval, some longer than 100 days. Reid’s threat would only affect these votes, he says.
“There is no crisis in the manner in which we are confirming nominees,” Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley fought back on the Senate floor last week. ”This is all part of a larger strategy to justify breaking the rules of the United States Senate to change the rules of the United States Senate.”
The Senate has confirmed 99 percent of the lower court nominees sent to the Senate by President Obama — only 2 of 201 have not been confirmed, the Don’t Nuke the Senate website notes.
“If this is allowed to come to fruition, it will fundamentally change the legislative body and the political landscape forever,” CDW Chairman Geoffrey Burr said in a statement. “We plan to educate voters and make sure Senators know that it is in no one’s interest—not even their own political interests—to allow this dangerous and unprecedented power grab in the Senate.”
Senate Republicans are asking Democrats to abandon some of President Barack Obama’s nominees to strike a compromise that avoids the nuclear option threatened by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).
The GOP is looking to replicate the Gang of 14 deal that the Democrats negotiated in 2005. Republicans, then in the majority, allowed several of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations to die in the Senate while securing passage for other nominees that Democrats considered more palatable.
Senate sources tell the Washington Free Beacon that if Democrats are sincere about a compromise to get certain nominees confirmed, they must be willing to withdraw support for the president’s more controversial appointees.
“A compromise would include losing some nominees,” the source said. “If Democrats insist on all-or-nothing, they’re setting up an impossible bar to clear.”
Republicans have taken issue with three nominees in particular: Consumer Financial Protection Board director Richard Cordray and National Labor Relations Board members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin.
Obama used his recess appointment power to appoint all three in 2012 while the Senate was still in session. Two federal courts have since declared the appointments unconstitutional; Block, Griffin, and Cordray have ignored the court orders, which will go before the Supreme Court in the fall. Reid ended debate on the NLRB nominees on Thursday afternoon.
“The Democrats have known for a long time that these guys were unacceptable,” a top Republican Senate aide told the Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. “They could have found suitable replacements and chose not to—it’s a manufactured crisis.”
The Senate has approved more than 1,500 executive nominations since Obama took office, while rejecting only four, leading many Republicans to cry foul.
“This is really a sad, sad day for the United States Senate. And if we don’t pull back from the brink here, my friend, the majority leader, is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on Thursday.
The two parties will meet behind closed doors on Monday night to try and hammer out a compromise to avoid a rules change that would allow Democrats to pass Obama’s nominees with a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold.
Republicans spent the weekend attempting to corral Democratic swing votes, while Reid hardened his position.
Reid, who called the nuclear option “a complete abuse of power” that was “as far as you could get from a Constitutional option” when he was minority leader in 2005, reiterated his support for the rules change at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Monday morning.
“We have a situation where Republicans have created gridlock,” he said. “The Senate is a unique institution. It was created that way by the Founding Fathers. Traditions are important, but also is an evolving institution.”
Conservative groups are launching last-minute campaigns to alert the public to the consequences of the nuclear option.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), a group dedicated to protecting the secret ballot in union elections, on Sunday launched DontNukeTheSenate.com. The site is backed by a six-figure ad buy that highlights the potential consequences of ramming through nominations and legislation with bare-majority support.
“Our coalition has always hesitated to get involved in Senate rules, but the impact is so vast, so precedent setting that we feel obligated to get involved,” CDW chairman Geoffrey Burr said. “These are highly, highly controversial nominees and everything about this seems hasty.”
The ads are targeting vulnerable Democrats in swing states, airing in North Carolina, West Virginia, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, and Maine. The CDW, which represents more than 600 trade associations, said getting rid of the filibuster will change the country in many ways beyond simple Beltway politics.
“Senate rules tend to be seen as insider baseball, but people understand what the filibuster is,” he said. “When people see that the elimination of the filibuster can be used to push through highly partisan nominees that can have major impacts on jobs and the economy, this becomes an election issue.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the rule changes on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a case called Noel Canning v. NLRB. Beyond its potential impact for constitutional separation of powers, the outcome is crucial to the future of labor relations at millions of American workplaces.
The panel’s decision in the case promises to be the first of many judicial rulings in the inevitably protracted legal drama over whether President Obama can circumvent the Senate’s constitutional role in confirming (or blocking) the president’s nominees. The drama began earlier, when the president decided on Jan. 4 to bestow on organized labor a belated and rather extravagant holiday gift by unlawfully appointing three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board under the Recess Appointment Clause in the Constitution and, thereby, avoiding the Senate confirmation process. The Clause permits appointments of a limited duration without Senate confirmation when Senate is in recess. The trouble is, on Jan. 4, the Senate was still in session.
The president’s maneuver has been the gift that keeps giving for organized labor, with the Board’s majority pushing through the union bosses’ wish list throughout the year. Employees, employers, and the economy, however, have received a collective a lump of coal as the Board’s decisions have trampled worker and business rights, and the illegal recess appointments have injected further uncertainty into labor relations.
The Noel Canning suit is only one of at least a dozen pending legal challenges in federal courts to Board decisions issued by the recess appointees. Noel Canning’s attorneys, along with those from the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who both have intervened in the suit, noted in their arguments that the Board cannot lawfully issue decisions because it lacks a quorum of three legally appointed members. Accordingly, all of the Board’s actions since January 4, 2012, and all of the future actions of this quorum-less Board are without legal effect.
Several years ago, the Supreme Court held the Board needed at least three of its full complement of five members to issued decisions. As of Jan. 4 last year, the Board only had two members confirmed by the Senate: Chairman Mark Pearce (D) and Member Brian Hayes (R). Rather than work with senators to confirm a package of mutually acceptable nominees (one that left the Board balanced with two Republicans and two Democrats, for example), the president did an end-run around Senate confirmation and recess appointed Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D), and Terence Flynn (R), while the Senate was still in session. Flynn has since left, leaving one legally appointed Democrat, one legally appointed Republican, and two illegally appointed Democrats.
The general problem of this constitutional clash is obvious; should the courts allow illegal executive appointments to stand, it will be a significant blow to the operation of our republic. If nothing else, there will be little future incentive for presidents to submit nominees through the traditional vetting and confirmation process and, consequently, there will likely be a higher number of controversial recess appointments in the executive and judicial branches driving special-interest agendas.
More specifically in this case, should the president’s unlawful appointments to the NLRB stand, it will be a big, shiny gift under the tree for union bosses. While AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka laughably claimed as recently as November 5 that the Employee Free Choice Act is in reach within the next term, much of organized labor’s wish list remains viable through the NLRB if it can be packed with labor’s pliant helpers. Indeed, it was the success of the president’s highly controversial recess appointee, longtime union attorney Craig Becker, at driving an anti-employee and anti-business agenda that lead to the standoff between the president and the Senate over nominees in the first place. And, as expected, the unlawfully recess appointed Board majority has continued with Becker’s agenda.
So whats on labor’s wish list? A quick sampling: significantly restructuring the current elections process to reduce the ability of employers to talk to employees and for employees to access information prior to voting; eroding employers’ private property rights to allow paid union organizers access to stores so they can intimidate and chase off consumers of businesses that refuse yield to union demands; opening up the possibility of swarms of micro-unions to cherry pick only pro-union employees and disenfranchise employees likely to oppose unionization; and forcing employers to plaster up notices that amount to advertisements to join a union.
While there will be much talk at today’s oral argument about Noel and Clauses (Constitutional that is), to date the only ones reveling over the president’s unlawful appointments have been organized labor. That may be short-lived, however, as the courts provide a check and balance on the president’s actions. Hopefully, a decision striking down the recess appointments is forthcoming and with it an opportunity for a new start. Our country needs the president to work on a bipartisan basis with Congress to solve our problems — not run roughshod over the Constitution to push a radical agenda the benefits a politically powerful special interest.
Geoffrey Burr is chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Workplace, which represents over 600 employers, associations, and other organizations.