Friday, October 26, 2007
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO filed a complaint against the NLRB with the the International Labor Organization's Committee on
Freedom of Association. The AFL-CIO is arguing that the current Board's decisions represents a "systematic effort to deny workers' rights in violation of
international labor standards." According the BNA's Daily Labor Report (subscription required), the complaint's litany of charges includes:
[The charge] that through its decisions the NLRB has shrunk its coverage of certain workers; limited the rights of workers who are protected by the National Labor Relations Act; strengthened management's prerogative to discriminate against, harass, and intimidate workers; and refused to apply the "few meaningful remedies available" under the NLRA.
Specifically, the federation alleged that the United States is in violation of ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize and ILO Convention 98, which is the application of the principles of the right to organize and to collectively bargain. . .
The complaint noted that the Committee on Freedom of Association has expressed reluctance to determine the "inadequacy of United States labor legislation in safeguarding the principles of freedom of association" from one NLRB decision or from decisions that relate to a single dispute. In the complaint, the federation said it is not relying on a single case or dispute "to demonstrate the extent to which the NLRB has eviscerated workers fundamental rights during the course of the Bush Administration." . . .
According to the complaint, in one category of cases the board has denied freedom of association to entire groups of workers by excluding them from the definition of employee. . . . In another category of cases, the complaint alleges that the Bush board has "significantly curtailed" the rights of workers who remain covered by the NLRA. Through numerous rulings, the AFL-CIO said, the NLRB has given employers wide latitude to threaten, harass, and spy on their employees with impunity. In addition, a wide range of employee conduct no longer qualifies as concerted, protected activity, allowing employers to terminate their employees, the complaint said. Management conduct in favor of union representation has been found to be unlawful, but the board has greatly expanded the scope of anti-union employee conduct that is lawful, the complaint said. The AFL-CIO also said that the board has strengthened management rights at the expense of worker rights by elevating employers' property rights over employees protected rights, and strengthening employer bans on employee speech including the wearing of union buttons and other insignia.
The complaint also charges that the Board has improperly abandoned the use of bargaining orders and that Board delay denies workers their fundamental rights. The remedy sought is for the U.S. to "take all necessary steps to restore, in law and in practice, the rights of workers to have full freedom of association and engage in effective collective bargaining."
I don't know enough about the ILO's adjudicatory process to weigh in on the likely success of the complaint. What is clear, however, is that this serves as another tool for unions to challenge the Board's dramatic pro-employer shift over the last few years. Of course, the best remedy for that is to put a Democrat in the White House, so as the election season ramps up further, organized labor may be even more active than normal.