Spend enough time around the water cooler with people who represent employers before the National Labor Relations Board and you will invariably hear comments like “the deck is stacked against us” or “the Board simply does the unions’ bidding,” etc. Such comments just as invariably rest on gut feelings, an experience in a discrete case or two, or the fact that those who came before us said such things.
There is a kernel of truth. After all, the National Labor Relations Act, the federal statute that is enforced by the NLRB, is appropriately employee slanted to counter “the fist inside the velvet glove” and other inbalances of power in the workplace. Nevertheless, we should expect neutrality from the federal agency charged with enforcing the law. Indeed, the new Regional Director for Region 13 in Chicago recently affirmed that “When investigating unfair labor practice allegations, the Board agent acts as an impartial investigator, and throughout the investigation, it is the duty of the Board agent to assertively seek out all material evidence in the spirit of providing me with a complete picture of the events so as to permit an informed decision on the case.” The ChiRO Update Winter 2012 (Final).
Yet gut feelings persist, as do the recurring chants of bias or favoritism. Just this past December, a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concluded that, “it appears the NLRB has turned into a voice for unions instead of the neutral arbiter of labor disputes.” December 13, 2012 Staff Report, “President Obama’s Pro-Union Board: The NLRB’s Metamorphosis from Independent Regulator to Dysfunctional Union Advocate,” p. 10. That report focused on, among other things, the Board’s prosecution of Boeing for transferring production from a unionized site to a non-union site, it’s reversal regarding “micro-unions”, its rule-making requiring employers to post notices about the right to act collectively under the NLRA, etc. But Board decision-making has always reflected, to some degree, the ideology of the party that controls the White House. What about at the regional level, where the great majority of labor/management disputes are administered?
Part of the answer may be found on Twitter. Twitter provides more than just the ability to communicate outwardly. It has also become a way to harness incoming media and information. By choosing who to “follow” on Twitter, you can hand tailor the delivery of information and news. Want to keep abreast of what the environmental movement is doing? Then you might follow “@Greenpeace” to receive whatever information that organization is tweeting.
Just for fun, we looked at Region 13’s Twitter page. At the time we checked, the Chicago Regional office was following 174 other Twitter accounts. Of the 174 accounts it had chosen to follow, 119 belonged to unions, plaintiff/employee attorneys, and pro-labor organizations. Just 26 were neutral, 11 were government accounts, and 16 were aligned with management. We gave the benefit of any doubt to the “neutral” category.
Have you heard the saying, Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are? If that’s true, then Region 13 (at some level) might have a little explaining to do.