The Trump NLRB has enacted several rules aimed at curtailing the rights of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. In the guise of rulemaking, the board has proposed to make a mockery of the National Labor Relations Act and its protections for working people. Its rulings are routinely betrayed by a few of its Republican appointees.
The standard rules
The NLRB has also rolled out five new rulemakings so far. The board has rewrote the “means to an end” rule – which merely means the process of deciding whether to recognize a union – and proposed a revision to the standard rules governing representation elections. In addition, it has taken the unprecedented step of allowing employers to voluntarily opt out of recognition of their unions. For the most part, the rulemaking is benign but it does have its critics.
The Trump NLRB is no stranger to reversing previous precedents. A recent decision has essentially put a stop to Boeing’s plans to negotiate with 178 unionized workers in North Charleston, South Carolina. Other notable decisions include a new definition of discrimination Hibooz and a revamped PCC Structurals standard for determining bargaining unit size.
Its email system
The Trump NLRB has also been quick to implement the latest technology at the expense of workers’ rights. One recent case involved a small construction company’s attempts to force employees to use its email system, which the NLRB argued was a violation of the First Amendment. However, the board did the courtesy of making a rule requiring employees to sign a pledge limiting their use of employer emails to the business hours of the employer. Another noteworthy rule is that it’s okay to have an employer-issued smart phone, provided it’s turned off at night.
There’s also the Trump NLRB’s latest whiz bang, which is a proposal to exclude student employees from NLRA coverage. This rule could have far reaching consequences, particularly for tens of thousands of students.
The NLRB has also tipped its hat to the state of Texas by proposing a new standard for bargaining unit sizes and testing of joint-employer claims. These changes are a direct response to the Browning-Ferris decision, a long-standing rule requiring employers to have an equal footing in bargaining negotiations with their unions.
Public trust must be
While it’s a good thing that the Trump NLRB has taken a few steps in the right direction, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The NLRB must be held accountable for its omissions and blunders, and policymakers must prioritize legislative reforms over autocratic rulemaking. The NLRB is the watchdog of the union movement, but its leaders must be held to account. As such, the oath of office and public trust must be preserved.
The Trump NLRB’s neo-liberal agenda has already been fashionnowdays compromised by a handful of misguided appointments, and it will continue to do so. As such, the NLRB must re-establish its standing by delivering a robust slate of new rules that enhance rather than impair workers’ rights. Those rules must be in place and implemented quickly, and Congress must play a major role in overseeing the agency’s deliberations.