Amend the NLRA to clearly permit the use of employee involvement programs.
In order for American business to compete successfully in the twenty-first century global economy, workplace cooperation between employers and their employees is essential. Many companies are fostering cooperation through the use of employee involvement (EI) teams, which delegate considerable decision-making power from management to front-line employees. Unfortunately, antiquated provisions in the nation's labor laws often hinder employer EI programs.
Currently, the NLRB maintains that it is illegal for an employer and employees to work together to resolve workplace issues that involve terms and conditions of employment through committees or teams that fall within the definition of a "labor organization," unless those employees are represented by a union.140
Section 8 (a)(2) of the NLRA makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it." This section was passed in the original act of 1935 as part of the basic law governing the election of unions and subsequent collective bargaining. At that time, a tactic commonly used by employers to defeat union organizing was to establish sham "company unions." These organizations pretended to engage in collective bargaining, but in reality merely followed management's dictates and were typically run by officers hand-picked by management. Section 8 (a)(2) was written broadly to ensure that all forms of company unions would be eliminated. Today, however, the broad prohibition remains in place and prevents the legitimate cooperative working relationships that encourage worker participation and joint decision-making.
It is difficult to believe that true labor-management cooperation designed to promote the welfare of employers and employees can only be achieved in the context of a union setting. Congress should amend Section 8 (a)(2) of the NLRA to permit and encourage the use of EI programs while preserving the legitimate opportunities of unions to organize employees and to bargain collectively.