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September 13, 2005

The Joke that is the Bush NLRB

Here's why unions are doing everything possible to avoid elections supervised by the anti-union clowns running the Bush NLRB:

In an election held last year at Werthan Packaging company, supervisors ran a campaign of intimidation against workers to convince them to vote against the union. One supervisor approached a worker wearing a union button and told them to vote no on the union or they'd lose their job. Another worker was told tthat it would be in "her best interest and in her family's best interest" to vote no, the threat very clear. Similar approaches were made in front of other workers to twenty-five other employees. The union ended up losing the 2004 election by 11 votes.

A front-line hearing officer for the NLRB found the intimidation so egregious, with intimation of over 25 employees more than the 11 vote union loss, so he ordered the election set aside and a new election held.

But on August 26, the majority on the national NLRB board overturned the case officer's decision in its Werthan Packaging, Inc. decision.

Here's what the majority said:

Contrary to the hearing officer, we cannot conclude that Adkisson’s statement to Stokes that it was in Stokes’ and her family’s best interest that the Employer wanted her to vote “no” constituted an impermissible threat. An employer’s telling an employee that it would be in that person’s or family’s “best interest” to vote against the union, unaccompanied by threats, is too vague to warrant a finding that the employer was threatening the employee.
Workers may testify that they understood the implied threat, but the Bush NLRB has now said that all an employer need do is play games with language to code their threats and they are scott-free under the law.

Oh, and those twenty-five other workers approached? Since the hearing officer didn't have testimony from each one, the fact that other workers observed them being interogated was irrelevant:

there is no evidence concerning the content of the conversations Adkisson had with the 25 employees she talked with after speaking to Stokes. All Stokes witnessed was Adkisson approaching employees, and then writing something down on a clipboard.
So right after interrogating one worker, and writing down their pro-union status, that same supervisor approaches other workers, then writes down something on the same clipboard, but you can't conclude anything about what the supervisor was doing?

What a farce.

As the one Democratic member on this 3-member panel argued -- two of the five members of the NLRB board are nominated by Democrats -- this decision is in sharp contrast to an NLRB decision, Harborside Healthcare Inc., where the board readily set aside an election where supervisors made PRO-union statements. As Liebman wrote in dissent to Werthman:

The majority’s approach stands in sharp contrast to the Board’s recent decision in Harborside Healthcare, Inc., 343 NLRB No. 100 (2004). There, the majority inferred that a prounion supervisor threatened certain employees, based solely on the supervisor’s statements to other employees...Harborside is instructive on this point. There, the majority found that statements made by a pro-union supervisor to three employees were objectionable. It then observed that it was “not unreasonable to infer that when [the supervisor] . . . spoke to . . . other employees, she did not limit her remarks to permissible expressions of opinion about the Union.”
But this double standard is to be expected from the Bush-dominated NLRB. Any hint of pro-union bias by a supervisor must be punished, but documented threats against pro-union workers are nothing to worry about.

And do remember, 20,000 workers are punished or fired EVERY YEAR for pro-union activity. That's according to the NLRB's own records. Given that corporate crime wave, it's hard to argue that workers wouldn't understand exactly what a supervisor means when he says it's in the workers "interest" not to support the union?

Posted by Nathan at September 13, 2005 08:19 AM