NLRB Keeps Charging Ahead Blindly

In the regulatory mess that is Washington today, the leader of the ridiculous pack just might be the National Labor Relations Board.

With union membership continuing to decline to historically low levels, the NLRB has apparently determined it will do whatever it can to help slow the erosion. It has shown no pretense of fairness in its decisions over the past four years with its rulings also often having major impacts on non-union employers.

In January, a U.S. Court of Appeals threw out three of President Obama's NLRB appointees, raising questions about the legality of recent rulings. Those same people have now been renominated by the President, so the drama continues.

The latest partisan action regards union dues expenditures. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) provides this summary:

A case currently before the NLRB could significantly alter the current way in which employees can exercise their Beck rights to object  to union dues’ expenditures.  According to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Beck decision, employees can object to a portion of union dues’ expenditures if the dues are being used to fund political activity not related to collective bargaining or contract administration.  In a recent case, the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital) and Jeanette Geary, however, the NLRB decided an employee, who objected to the union’s expenditures, did not deserve to have any verification showing proof how the union was spending its funds.
 
The NLRB proposes to go a step further to give the unions the upper hand by presuming the union is, indeed, spending all the dues correctly.  The effect would be the Board is telling employees they have to prove the union is spending money on lobbying and political activity with no means of independently verifying the union claims.
 
The Board’s new idea would unfairly and unnecessarily stack the deck against employees who have to pay dues, but disagree with the union politically.  Under the proposal, any lobbying activity the union would engage in on Capitol Hill, down to state and local seats of government, would go unchecked.
 

 

Enlist Now to Protect the Union at Conner Prairie!

By now, I would hope most Hoosiers have been to Conner Prairie in Fishers (an Indiana Chamber member and Indiana’s only Smithsonian affiliate) at least once. I remember when — as a fifth grader taking field trips there — my primary delight in visiting was focused on the rock candy in the gift shop. Now, as an adult, I’m happy to say that getting in touch with history is my main motivation — although I still partake in the sweeter rations found on the premises.

But beginning tomorrow, the award-winning interactive history park will turn a page in its long history, as the public is introduced to its latest (and permanent) exhibit: 1863 Civil War Journey. I’m proud to say I serve on a young professionals council for Conner Prairie, and was privy to a sneak peek of the $4.3 million project last week. To say I was impressed would be understating things.

I’ll spare you a lengthy prologue, but the exhibit tells the story of Morgan’s Raid of 1863, in which southern Indiana was invaded by the "rogue" general John Hunt Morgan and his 2,500 cavalrymen in their effort to capture the state for the Confederacy. In researching Civil War sites in the region, I actually discovered that, while we may view Morgan as a villain, Lexington, Kentucky features tours of his home, as well as a monument in his honor. And that in a city just a few hours drive from central Indiana – such a telling commentary on how perspectives in the Civil War could vary so greatly between such short distances.   

The exhibit combines live acting with visuals, videos and a remarkably interactive experience, and you simply must see it. The park’s staff has been hard at work on the promotional trail, invading Indy’s city market and gaining mentions both regionally and nationally. Ideally, the journey is for adults and children 10 years and up, and if you have a little one, they’ve also built a new playground in the area. If you’re a history buff or just a casual fan, you will get a great deal out of this. Hope to see you there — and wear yer fightin’ boots.

Things You May Not Know About the State of the Union

Tonight at 9 p.m., millions of Americans will gather around their television sets to view history in the making. Granted, 50% of the audience will likely stem from the "American Idol" lead-in, but they’ll hopefully stick around to watch President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address. In related news, here are some interesting facts about the history of the speech, courtesy of CQ Politics:

The State of the Union is steeped in ceremony, but the tradition has changed quite a bit over the years.

As Congress prepares to hear President Obama’s first address this Wednesday, here are some facts to lift the curtain on this annual tradition:

  • The president’s annual message has its origins in the Constitution and was modeled after a British tradition.
  • Senators are seated towards the front of the House chamber. Only Congressional leaders and the administration can bring guests.
  • Thomas Jefferson broke with tradition to deliver his address in writing. Subsequent presidents followed suit until Woodrow Wilson delivered his 1913 message in person.
  • Harry S. Truman delivered the first televised speech in 1947. George W. Bush’s 2002 speech was the first to be streamed live online.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson moved the speech from daytime to the evening to increase television viewership. Over the years, presidents have tailored their speeches more towards the American public than simply to Congress.
  • Along with one member of the president’s Cabinet, two Members of the House and Senate skip the event should tragedy hit during the event. The tradition of lawmakers staying back started after the 9/11 attacks.

A Business Lesson on Timeliness and Aggression from the Civil War

What does the story of a lost note during the Civil War have to do with organizations gaining good customer feedback to make solid business decisions in today’s economy?

It’s true. We’re talking the Confederate army, Gen. Robert E. Lee, Antietam Creek, Union leader George McClellan and more. You will have to read the story in this BizVoice web exclusive to find out the connection.

Thanks to Indianapolis attorney and Civil War buff Mark A. Bailey for the intriguing tale and to consultant Ron Shaw for the analysis.

House of Cards: Chicago Tribune Criticizes Employee Free Choice Act

The Chicago Tribune editorial page recently took a swipe at the proposed Employee Free Choice Act card-check bill, concluding, "the inaptly named Employee Free Choice Act would be good for labor bosses. But it wouldn’t be good for laborers."

The Trib writes:

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow unions to create local bargaining units without winning the vote of a majority of workers in a secret ballot.

The local unit would be certified if a majority of workers endorsed it by signing an authorization card handed out by union organizers.

Fair enough? Not really. The so-called card-check bill would not protect workers and it would not be "free choice." It would strip away their right to vote in secret, making it more likely they would face intimidation from organizers and other workers. The pressure would be on to check the card, whether or not they actually wanted a union.

Once the union was certified by a card check, the employer would have to accept arbitration if a contract couldn’t be negotiated within 120 days.

It’s clear why union bosses want this law. Union membership ticked up last year, but it has been plunging for half a century. In the 1950s, about one-third of U.S. workers belonged to a union. Now just 12.1 percent of U.S. workers—and just 7.5 percent of private-sector workers—are in a union.

There are many reasons for that decline, including the growth of the service sector economy, the movement of manufacturing jobs overseas—and the choice of workers who believe that a union would require them to pay dues but wouldn’t benefit them.

We’ve written about this before, noting that even George McGovern thinks this is a bad idea.