The Gifts That Keep On Giving

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Federal, Labor Relations Ink, NLRB, Politics, Pro Act, States

Let’s face it, Jennifer Abruzzo isn’t letting up on her quest for labor reform anytime soon. As we’ve seen over the past two years, she’s been relentless in her efforts to overhaul NLRB precedent and shift the Board’s focus toward workers’ rights. Her new memorandum on ‘prosecutorial priorities’ demonstrates that she remains committed to her agenda of labor reform. Since being sworn in, Abruzzo has successfully changed over 50 precedents from her initial memorandum, leaving only 14 items to go.

Issues like intermittent strikes and employer property access are still on her hit list, and employers are pressured to avoid any changes that could affect their business. It’s a challenging time, but with Abruzzo leading the charge, it’s clear that more changes are coming in the months ahead.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the Abruzzo agenda that you have to worry about. Her colleagues on the National Labor Relations Board and Democrats at all levels are doing their best to boost labor union interests heading into the 2024 elections. 

Lauren McFerran and the Board have also been very active. They have been focusing on new joint employer regulations, determining that workers recording conversations in the workplace is ok despite laws against such action in some locales (Yes – it’s OK because PCA!!), and deciding if Google can be forced to negotiate with contractors employed by another company

That answer on Google would be yes. NLRB regional director Timothy Watson found that Alphabet and contract employment firm Cognizant are the YouTube Music workers’ joint employer and that Go0gle could be required to negotiate with the CWA.

A bipartisan group of Democrats and one lone Republican in the House have reintroduced the PRO Act in Congress, renaming it the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. 

The PRO Act would reform labor law in the United States. It would override state-level “right-to-work” laws, enhance strike protections, and ban employers from holding “captive audience” meetings, among other changes. 

The bill has little chance of passage in the 118th Congress. It represents a significant gesture towards Big Labor by the Dems, especially with the memorial naming of the act after Trumka. 

Democrats in Michigan are poised to repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law, which has been in effect since 2012, after passing a bill headed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk, where she is expected to sign it into law. The rarely-seen repeal would be a significant victory for organized labor. 

 “It’s incredibly rare, actually, for any state to reverse a right-to-work law once it’s been enacted,” said Wayne State University law professor Michael Oswalt. “It hasn’t happened in decades and decades.”

Democrats and labor unions contend that the bill is needed to restore worker rights. Business leaders say the bill will damage the Michigan economy and make bringing new jobs to the state complex. It’s much more likely that Michigan Democrats will benefit a lot more from this legislation than the workers of Michigan. 

 And the union handouts by politicians aren’t just coming through legislation; they sometimes yield hard cash. In December, Congress passed the Omnibus appropriations bill, which included a massive bailout of several poorly managed and severely underfunded labor union pension plans, including one spectacular giveaway: $100,000 per beneficiary to the Central States Pension Fund. The fund provides pension benefits to nearly 360,000 private-sector workers and retirees, mostly Teamsters Union members. That’s a lot of money for a small group of taxpayers.

 There is no doubt that Democrats will remain intensely devoted to courting organized labor heading into 2024, which means that their union bailout of unions in order to earn their political support will continue for the foreseeable future. Employers need to keep their eye on these developments and be ready to adjust policy accordingly.

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