NLRB chief says he wants easier organizing rules

Michael P. Tremoglie Jan. 26, 2012, 12:10pm


NEW YORK -- The chairman of the National Labor Relations Board told the Associated Press he wants new rules that would make union organizing efforts easier.

Mark Pearce said that he would like the board to propose the rules immediately since it has a full component of five members. He is ignoring the controversy surrounding recent appointments to the NLRB, which some members of Congress, some advocacy groups and business organizations have said is unconstitutional.

"We keep our eye on the prize," Pearce said in the AP interview. "Our goal is to create a set of rules that eliminate a lot of waste of time, energy and money for the taxpayers."

One new rule Pearce is seeking is to require businesses to give lists of employee phone numbers and emails to union officials before an election. Any such proposal would add more power to unions seeking to halt declining membership. The NLRB passed a revolutionary set of new regulations in December that accelerated the process for holding union elections after organizers collect enough employee signatures.

"My personal hope is that we take on all of these things and consider each one of these rules," Pearce said. "We presume the constitutionality of the president's appointments, and we go forward based on that understanding."

Union leaders and their Democratic Party allies have praised the unprecedented new rules making it easier for unions. Many have said the NLRB appointments and rule changes are repayments by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party for union campaign contributions.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics -- a nonpartisan electoral watchdog organization -- 75.5 percent of the $21,469,557 contributed by labor unions in 2011 to election campaigns went to Democrats, while a mere 11.5 percent went to Republicans.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce was quoted by the AP as saying, "I knew this was going to happen. The NLRB has lost all pretense of objectivity in my judgment."

Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president on labor issues, said he is surprised the board would try to adopt even more new rules that businesses fiercely oppose.

"If they're going to go forward on that basis, I think that removes any pretense at all that they are not in the back pocket of the union movement," Johnson said.

AFL-CIO spokeswoman Alison Omens called Pearce's comments "a reasonable, balanced approach to ensure that every person has a voice on the job."

"The board is obviously taking modest steps to create a level playing field and bring stability to a process that's been outdated," Omens said.

Republicans in Congress are vowing to put more pressure on the agency, with at least two House hearings on the NLRB recess appointments planned next month before the education committee and the Judiciary Committee.

"If the board is determined to continue advancing its pro-union agenda, House Republicans will continue to maintain aggressive oversight," said Brian Newell, spokesman for education committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation which represents workers whose rights have been violated expressed dismay at Pearce's comments.

"It is not surprising but certainly disappointing," said Pat Semmens, NRWLDF Legal Information Director. "There has been a steady stream of give aways to unions at the expense of the rights of employees. Some of the proposals are ripe for abuse by unions. It is outrageous for the federal government to mandate that companies furnish the personal contact information of employees to unions."

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