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The Dysfunctional NLRB

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The NLRB simply does not work for private sector labor. The long appeals and lack of meaningful punishment for corporate violations means that employers can engage in open intimidation of union organizing, knowing that even if they get busted, it can be years before a case is decided and by that time the union leaders are long gone since they’ll have been canned long before. Josh Eidelson has a piece on the now slightly less ridiculous Target anti-union video it shows employees. But the real kicker in the article in this:

The Target video, “Think Hard: Protect Your Signature,” was shown to Valley Stream, N.Y., Target employees in the lead-up to a 2011 unionization vote, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers union. Target was compelled to turn over the video as part of the National Labor Relations Board’s investigation of alleged illegal union-busting prior to that election, in which employees voted against becoming Target’s first unionized employees. In a 3-0 decision last year, the NLRB found sufficient wrongdoing by Target to throw out that election result, paving the way for a new unionization vote. However, citing intimations of lost jobs (including in that now-hipper video) and an alleged purge of union activists (whom the NLRB has not ordered Target to reinstate), the UFCW union last week told Salon that it now plans not to pursue another vote there.

“The system failed the workers, as it’s going to continue to fail the workers,” said UFCW Local 1500 organizing director Aly Waddy. Before the election, she alleged, Target used a mix of legal and illegal tactics to scare and spy on workers; after the union was defeated in the vote, she charged, the company rewarded or punished employees based on their stance toward the union, and used a four-month store shutdown for renovations as a pretext to transfer or terminate 20-some pro-union activists. “None of the workers that started the campaign are there …” Waddy told Salon, “Workers have seen a company that’s gotten away with doing whatever it is that they wanted to do.”

While the UFCW filed charges with the NLRB alleging union activists were illegally targeted for termination, the union was unable to secure any rulings to that effect from the Labor Board. Instead, the NLRB decision throwing out the 2011 election results cited a company solicitation policy, which it found illegally interfered with workers’ organizing rights, as well as “a coercive interrogation, a threat of unspecified reprisals, and the distribution to employees of a leaflet that unlawfully implied a threat to close the store if employees selected the Union …”

There are ongoing serious discussions within organized labor’s inner circles over whether the NLRB is even worth salvaging and while I do generally do think it can be made useful again, right now it is not.

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