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Labor leaders pushing for ‘ambush’ elections

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Leaders of the Service Employees International Union last week officially endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012. Endorsing a presidential candidate 11 months before the general election may seem a bit premature, but it’s not even the record for the earliest endorsements so far in this cycle.

The National Education Association endorsed Obama in July, 14 months before the voting. While these early endorsements highlight the fact that Big Labor’s leaders are cheerleaders (and paymasters) for the Democratic Party, at least voters will have plenty of time between now and next November to weigh all the facts, policy positions and records of the parties’ two eventual nominees.

But what if they didn’t? What if unions not only got to endorse candidates, but also schedule Election Day at a time of their choosing? What if they could also control what the opposing party could say during that election? Would that be fair? Well, it’s obviously a moot point in elections for public office, but Obama thinks it would be just dandy in union elections. His appointees on the National Labor Relations Board promise to make a final decision Nov. 30 on their proposed new regulations that would allow unions to force organizing elections in nonunion workplaces in as little as 10 days.

Currently, there is about a five-week window between when union organizers petition the NLRB to conduct a secret-ballot election and when the vote actually happens. That time between announcement and vote allows both sides abundant opportunities to make their case, so workers can cast informed ballots on whether to form a union. But the problem for Big Labor is that informed workers are increasingly choosing to keep their freedom to work without paying union dues. Union membership peaked at 26 percent of the workforce in 1953. Today, only 9.6 percent of workers are union members. In the private sector, less than 7 percent of workers are unionized.

The NLRB regulation to be adopted next Wednesday is designed to reverse that trend. Union organizers would be empowered to force hurry-up, or “ambush,” elections in less than two weeks. At best, this compressed schedule would significantly reduce the time business owners and managers have to make their case against unionization.

Worse, the rule of law is being tossed out the window to facilitate this latest union power grab. The board received more than 65,000 public comments when it published the first version of this proposal in June. Federal law requires that the board explain how it will take account of such comments, then publish a proposed final version that incorporates the response. No such explanation has been offered, yet the board plans to hold a final vote on the main provisions of the proposal anyway — an apparent violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act.

Coincidentally, the recess appointment by Obama of former SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the board expires Dec. 31. Without Becker, the NLRB would lack the quorum necessary to vote on anything, much less a major change in union election rules. Some might conclude that the NLRB is flouting the law merely to rush enactment of yet another favor for the Democrats’ Big Labor allies.