Faced with an economy that is limping along, President Obama has pursued an odd strategy for growth.
Instead of backing a tax code overhaul, or staring down Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over the senator’s unwillingness to pursue fast track trade negotiating authority, or pressing the pause button on new regulations, the president is stumping for policies that will harm employers and limit their ability to start hiring again.
His big push this year for a hike in the federal minimum wage will, if successful, only make hiring more expensive. The more expensive it becomes to fill jobs, the fewer jobs will be created, making it harder for the unemployed and young people without a lot of experience or skills to get into the workforce.
The president’s other cause célèbre is firing up his political base over income inequality. He’s called it “the defining challenge of our time.” His talking points make clear that he believes that the potential for economic growth is limited, that the pie can only grow so large and that the so-called 1 percent is getting too many pieces.
Another policy threat to our fragile economic recovery is the National Labor Relations Board’s plan to implement a rule that will open the door to ambush union organizing elections, further exacerbating the challenges faced by employers in this economy.
Under the NLRB’s proposal, labor officials could quickly call a union election, leaving employers mere days to provide their workers with information about how a union’s intrusion into the workplace could affect their jobs.
Union elections typically are contested over the course of about 45 days after a union files an election petition. But NLRB’s rule would see that window shrink to 10 days, enough time for a labor union to mount a campaign before an employer could effectively respond.
In testimony last month before the House Education and Workforce Committee, the head of human resources for a chain of restaurants rightly said ambush elections “cripple the ability of employees to learn the employer’s perspective on the impact of collective bargaining on the workplace.”
This isn’t the first time the administration has gone down this road. The courts in 2012 put the brakes on a similar plan because the NLRB lacked a quorum when it adopted the rule, but the ruling did not prevent the board from re-adopting the rule. This year’s version even goes a step farther, requiring employers to hand over to unions contact information for their workers and shift schedules.
Add this to the list of items that has characterized the administration’s hostile approach to employer-employee relations.
This is the same White House that has pursued so-called “card check” rules, which would eliminate a worker’s right to a private ballot in a union election; that sought to require employers to post notices advertising to workers about their access to unions; and that appointed a labor union attorney to the board. Just last week the NLRB’s Chicago office saw fit to weigh in on collegiate athletics, ruling that scholarship football players at Northwestern University are employees of the school and can form a union. Athletics’ role in the landscape of colleges and universities is an important topic, but is this really what the NLRB needs to spend its time on?
The NLRB has jumped the shark over the last several years, morphing from arbitrators into seemingly an auxiliary unit of organized labor. If this White House were serious about giving the economy a jumpstart, it could start by signaling to the “independent” NLRB to reign in its activities.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.