NLRB Rejects the EFCA in Favor of Maintaining "Abu-Ghraib-like Procedures"

Article Prepared by Brian Caufield and Darren Rumack

The debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) has heated up once again, as the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing addressing complaints over the NLRB, and the potential passage of EFCA.

The debate broke down into two camps: on one side, those who oppose the drastic overhaul that the EFCA would bring to private sector labor relations. This group includes past and present NLRB board members, who favor more incremental reforms at this stage.

Current NLRB chairman, Peter Schaumber came out against this complete overhaul of the system, stating that both the Board, and the NLRA have “proven to be remarkably flexible and adaptive over many years.” 

On the other hand, a vocal contingent of EFCA supporters also attended the hearing, arguing that employers use scare tactics to pressure employees into rejecting unionization.

Perhaps the most memorable quote of the hearing came from Alan Hart, the managing editor of UE News, which is the newsletter for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Hart compared the unionization process to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, stating that “employees are taken into rooms for interrogations and intimidation, this is almost Abu Ghraib-like procedures we’re seeing these days.”

Union histrionics aside, it is clear that after a brief lull over the winter months, this contentious piece of legislation is going to be in the news once again. 

Congressional Democrats Launch Attack on NLRB Decisions

On December 13, House and Senate Democrats held a joint subcommittee hearing, criticizing the National Labor Relations Board for a spate of decisions that the Democrats claim undermine workers’ rights to unionize. 

The Democrats voiced their concern over a spate of cases the Board has issued in recent months, including the Dana Corp. decision which has been discussed extensively on this blog.

Sen. Edward Kennedy stated that the Board “is no longer fulfilling its responsibility to protect the voice of American workers.” Kennedy also claimed that the Board has engaged in “an unprecedented rollback” in the protection of workers rights during the past five years.

Given the appointment process of Board members, the NLRB is an inherently political organization, and can be an easy political target. At the same time, the Board is charged with interpreting and ensuring compliance with the NLRA. Recently, Congress and unions seem more preoccupied with blaming the Board for widespread union woes in the country, when in fact, unions should be looking inward to examine their own shortcomings in appealing to workers instead.    

Although this hearing was likely a one-time event, expect to hear more about recent Board rulings affecting union elections, especially as the Presidential Primaries gear up in the next few weeks.