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The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency in charge of interpreting and enforcing labor law in the private sector, is studying a proposal to change the union election system to make it easier for workers to vote in a union at their workplace. The proposal passed to the next stage of development by a party line vote of 3-2 and is still months away from being implemented, if it ever is.

By changing how challenges to voter eligibility are handled, the proposed rule change has the potential to shorten the period between when non-union workers petition for a government-supervised election to win union recognition, and the date when the election actually takes place.

That is key for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that the interim period is when management can pressure workers to vote no using a variety of methods as well as special union busting consultants. The shorter the period between the petitioning and the actual election the less time management would have to sabotage a union drive.

Which might be the reason this rule change is unpopular with Big Business and why the Chamber of Commerce sued to block the proposal when previously offered in 2011.

Chamber of Commerce successfully sued to block the change. Without assessing the merits of the Labor Board’s proposal, Judge James Boasberg ruled in 2012 that “the rule was adopted without the statutorily required quorum” of three members “present,” because GOP member Brian Hayes “simply did not show up” for an electronic vote. If Hayes had voted against the rule, it would have passed 2-to-1…

Unions have long charged that the NLRB election process is riddled with opportunities for employers to delay, gerrymander and intimidate workers – concerns that have led some unions to largely abandon the process in favor of pressure campaigns to compel companies to agree to alternative paths to union recognitions. Organized labor hoped that by reducing the period of time between petitioning for an election and holding one, the rule change would at least marginally reduce the amount of legal or illegal pressure workers could be subjected to.

Given the relentless assault on trade unions any relief is good news. The project to destroy organized labor, starting in the 1970s as Neoliberalism began to take root in North America and Europe, has largely succeeded in the United States with union membership at historic lows.

Private sector unions were the first to fall with corporate trade agreements like NAFTA wrecking the industrial base and corresponding union jobs it provided. Now public sector union workers are under assault all over the country from Wisconsin to New Jersey. And it’s no secret as to who is leading the charge to bust up the unions to gain from lower wages.

Hopefully a little less pressure will be the deciding factor in more workers gaining the benefits of a union.

Image from Boogalouie under Creative Commons license.