NLRB and Small Business: Tensions Heightened Under Obama

Date: September 02, 2015

The Hill highlighted five rules the labor board initiated under the Obama Administration that harm small business.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has pushed for rules that critics argue have favored unions and targeted the small business community. The board’s latest controversial decision came last week, in a ruling that makes employers liable for labor violations committed by business partners and contractors. 

The Hill reported five other NLRB rulings that were decided during President Obama’s tenure that were against the best interest of small business. “There’s perhaps no labor board that has done more for organized labor than this one has,” Michael Lotito, an employment and labor attorney, told the The Hill. The labor board has “really put the wind back in the sails of unions,” said Beth Milito, NFIB Senior Legal Counsel, according to The Hill. 

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Five Biggest NLRB Controversies Under Obama

1. Boeing Plant Fight – April 2011

The NLRB accused Boeing of retaliating against union workers for strikes and violating federal labor law by building a new airplane manufacturing plant in South Carolina instead of Washington State. The labor board eventually dropped the case after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that asked the NLRB to file the case, struck a deal with Boeing to raise wages and expand production in Washington.

Critics of the case said the Obama Administration was overreaching, arguing that federal officials should not be able to tell companies where they can or can’t build factories. Some say this case signaled to the business community how radical the labor board was going to be. 

2. Union Election Rule – June 2011 and 2014

Otherwise known as the “ambush election rule,” the labor board moved to accelerate the process and the time frame for union elections, which critics say gives unions an unfair advantage over small businesses.

In June, a federal judge maintained the rule after NFIB and chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors filed a suit arguing that speeding up union elections would not give companies enough time to prepare. NFIB plans to appeal the decision.

3. Specialty Healthcare – August 2011

This decision allows multiple micro-unions to organize within a single workplace. Nursing home company Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Alabama had refused to recognize a union organized by a small group of certified nursing assistants because it didn’t represent all of the company’s employees. The NLRB’s decision allowed different departments within a single company to organize their own unions.

4. Workplace Posters – 2011

The labor board pushed for a rule in 2011 that would require employers to hang posters that reminded employees of their right to unionize. Critics argued that this violated employers’ First Amendment rights. A federal appeals court struck down the rule in May 2013.

5. Recess Appointments – January 2012

President Obama appointed three members—two Democrats and one Republican—on the labor board, which typically requires Senate approval, on grounds that Congress was in recess. The Supreme Court later found that the president’s recess appointments were unconstitutional as the Senate wasn’t technically in recess at the time.  

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