NLRB too slow to protect workers' rights

This article originally appeared in the Detroit News on June 12, 2001 at

By ROBERT P. HUNTER / Special to The Detroit News

The May 30 editorial entitled "NLRB Should Obey the Law" largely hit the mark, but more needs to be explained concerning how the Clinton labor board has operated during the past eight years. 

That the National Labor Relations Board would ignore Supreme Court precedent upholding worker rights under the 1988 Beck decision should come as no surprise.

In 1998, internal NLRB documents obtained by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request showed that of the eight longest standing cases before the board, seven were Beck cases. Some had been dormant for more than six years.

Yet, Beck cases comprise less than 2 per cent of the cases filed with the NLRB.

Government enforcement of Beck rights -- which protect workers from having their dues pay for political and other activities about which they may disagree -- was weak before the Clinton administration took over.

But since then it has been virtually nonexistent.

It took the NLRB more than seven years from the Beck decision to issue its first case explaining its policy. Even then, the NLRB refused to extend, and continues to deny, all of the procedural safeguards required under a similar U. S. Supreme Court case, Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, which extended dues protections to public employees.

Labor unions simply have no specific, immediate interest in apprising workers of their Beck rights or cooperating with them to process Beck requests: Quite the contrary, since refunding money to objecting workers means reduced union discretionary funds.

The task of the President George W. Bush appointees to the board should be to return the NLRB to principle and precedent. Full and faithful enforcement of the Beck decision would be a good place to start.

Robert P. Hunter
Director of Labor Policy
Mackinac Center for Public Policy