Economy & Budget

Obama’s National Labor Board denies Iowa nurses right to remove union

Obama’s National Labor Board denies Iowa nurses right to remove union

Big Labor and its partisans at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) regularly tout “workers’ rights,” but the only right they support is the right of workers to favor unionization.  If workers want to oppose the union or oust it, the Board stands in their way.

This is the high price our nation and its workers pay when a highly partisan, pro-union Board – the most extreme and one-sided in history – is put in place by an administration that has been corrupted by the political contributions of union bosses.

Last week, the Obama Board blocked efforts by nurses at The Finley Hospital in Dubuque, Iowa, for a vote to oust their union, a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  Although the nurses filed their election petition in 2009, the NLRB waited three and a half years to affirm the dubious decision of a regional director who ordered the election held in abeyance because three unfair labor practices committed in 2005 and 2006 “could affect the employees’ ability to exercise a free choice.”  The effect was to continue to deny the nurses an election they have sought for almost four years.

The Board’s decision is unsupported by the facts and the law and is an outrageous display of contempt for workers’ rights.

First, the NLRB waited five years to find the unfair labor practices that were used to block the election.  Second, the three unfair labor practices found are unlikely to survive an appeal, if one is taken.  Board Member Brian Hayes, who dissented, would have dismissed them all and for good reason.  Two of the alleged unfair labor practices were minor failures to provide information to the union, if they were that; moreover, some of the information was already publicly available to labor bosses.  The most “serious” violation, according to the Board majority, was the hospital’s failure to pay a 2005 annual wage adjustment; however, the expired collective bargaining agreement explicitly provided for annual wage adjustments only “during the duration” and “during the term of this Agreement.”  For this partisan Board majority, that language was not sufficiently “clear and unmistakable.”

Apart from the lack of merit in the NLRB’s findings, it cannot seriously be said to have tainted the workplace atmosphere and prevented a free and fair election in 2009 or today.  In fact, since the union filed the charges in 2005 and 2006, the union and the employer have successfully negotiated two collective bargaining agreements.  The 2007 collective bargaining agreement essentially settled the wage adjustment issue – two years before the nurses sought to oust the union.  That agreement provided that wage adjustments were to continue and the amounts paid “credited against any amount” subsequently awarded the nurses based on the union’s charge.

The only explanation for the NLRB’s actions and its unconscionable delay in making them are to send a message to workers, particularly those in health care, that the Board will stymie any effort they make to oust their union.  The union barely won a 2007 decertification vote, 144 to 137.  A vote in 2009 by nurses at The Finley Hospital to oust their union would have encouraged nurses and workers in other health care facilities to consider ousting their unions.  This is a message that Big Labor and its partisans at the NLRB do not want to send to workers in an industry that union bosses must dominate if they are to maintain a formidable presence in the U.S. workplace.  Although the employer can appeal the Board’s decision and continue to seek to have the election block set aside, the NLRB’s maneuverings have successfully deprived workers from exercising rights guaranteed in the law.

Actions such as these, which are completely unjustified, will continue as long as the Board is dominated by appointees of President Obama who are selected not to be neutral arbiters, but to serve the narrow partisan interests of union bosses, which ends up being at the expense of everyone else.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI)

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