NLRB Pushing Pro-Union Agenda; EPA Proposal Affects Pipeline Compressors

September 2011, Vol. 66 No. 9

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has picked up the pro-union cudgel from Democrats in Congress. In the last session of Congress, Democrats had tried and failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which would have expanded union organizing rights.

Now the NLRB, composed of three Democrats and one Republican, has filed a pro-union lawsuit against Boeing and proposed a major rule change which would accomplish some of what the EFCA sought to do.

House Republicans are likely to pass legislation changing the NLRB statute to prevent unions from contesting a company's moving of production facilities from one state to another. This is the issue in the Boeing case, where the NLRB is pursuing a complaint from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accusing Boeing of illegally retaliating against the unions for a series of strikes at Boeing plants in Washington state. That retaliation, according to the unions, took the form of Boeing's decision to build a secondary 787 Dreamliner aircraft plant in North Charleston, SC, instead of the Seattle area as a form of punishment. The company has denied that, saying it picked mostly nonunion South Carolina for the 3,800-worker factory based on several economic factors, including strike-related costs.

The House Education and Labor Committee passed a bill in late July (Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act /H.R. 2587). The legislation amends the National Labor Relations Act to prohibit the NLRB from ordering any employer to relocate, shut down or transfer employment under any circumstance.

The Boeing lawsuit was followed by NLRB publication of a suite of proposed rules on June 22 seeking about a dozen modifications to procedures governing union representation elections, effectively compressing the time frame between a union’s filing of a representation petition and a representation election. At public hearings on July 19, Maurice Baskin, a Washington attorney who represents the Associated Builders & Contractors, told the four commissioners that the proposed rules "had no purpose other than to promote union organizing." He argued the NLRB had shown no credible need for the changes, particularly given the fact that unions won 81 percent of elections in the construction industry in the recent past. He was particularly critical of the change in time period to seven days during which a company must put together a legal brief -- called a statement of position form -- for a hearing in front of a regional NLRB director after a union has filed its intention to unionize a workplace.