Archive for March, 2012

Letter to the NLRB

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Letter to the NLRB

Below is the letter written by Permanent Solutions Labor Consultant’s President and CEO, Ricardo Torres, to the National Labor Relations Board in response to the proposed election changes. Please remember that as a United States citizen and/or Business Owner, you have the right to voice your opinion as well. PSLC is urging you to write the NLRB and voice your opinion. WRITE THE NLRB HERE

July 25, 2011

Dear NLRB Members:

I am writing you today to express my personal opinion on the recommended changes in the election process for union representation. I feel that I am uniquely qualified to provide expert knowledge as I have spent 24 years on the union side as a high-level union official and the last 10 years as President of a successful labor consulting company.

Section 7 of the NLRA defines the core protection and organizing rights of employees: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment”

That intent of the NLRA is to protect employees from both union and employer abuses. In organizing drives, the NLRA provides provisions for the affected employee to file charges against either party (both union and employer) who abuses this provision, so by its own admission it officially was intended to be a neutral entity only interested in the protection of the employee’s free decision whether or not to join and/or participate in the forming of a union at their workplace. One can conclude that by being a neutral honest broker, the NLRB was not created to be interested in the outcome of the election, but to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair manner with (as the NLRA states) “laboratory like conditions” and be oblivious to the results.

As a former union official, with over 20 years experience (with a large portion of that time serving as an Organizing Director with nearly 1000 campaigns under my leadership), who now works with management to improve employee relations/communications through the promotion of positive employee relations, I was responsible for developing organizing strategies while working for unions as well as working with the AFL/CIO at the Organizing Institute. I have taught specifics relative to the NLRA as it applies to organizing campaigns to union members across the country, teaching specialized labor courses at the University of Michigan (Latinos in Labor, Black Men in Unions) as well as being a regular presenter at the Organizing Speakers Bureau sponsored by Wayne State University in Michigan and a serving as national speaker with union outreach events with most unions affiliated with the AFL/CIO (some who are now with the Change to Win Federation). I also helped facilitate two union mergers with the purpose improving their organizing abilities. The point I am trying to make here is that I have hands on experience from within the union movement and within union organizing campaigns, an “inside” view of the how the NLRB (and the NLRA) effects employees.

There are many reasons why the proposed changes by the NLRB could inadvertently impact the same employees that the NLRB to protect. I will contain my comments to the direct repercussions for employees and how these changes will affect them.

Union tactics include infiltrating companies before filing an election petition for as long as they need to persuade the workforce. Just how do they do that? As someone who has trained thousands of union organizers and union officers on the most successful union organizing tactics, I can say with certainty that the first contact unions make with employees is to connect with an unhappy portion of the workforce and to make their anger personal. We would search for any grievance we could find. It may have been a disrespectful comment made by a management member or a promotion pass over or the denial of time off work. It really didn’t matter what the reason was, as long as it was personal. Then we (my union organizing team) would muddy the waters by digging up any dirt on the company or any member of management to discredit them. We would highlight or invent OSHA or EEOC charges. We taught union organizers to disrupt the workplace and hinder the company operations as much as possible and to cause havoc within the facility. My team was taught to misrepresent the NLRA by over stating the interpretation of employee rights to organize in order to get employees to violate company rules and engage in non-protective activities. In fact, the inspiration for AFL/CIO sponsored training schools across the nation appropriately named the “Troublemakers Institute.” Organizers were taught to stay away from the hard topics like plant closings, contract negotiations and strikes. They were taught to give misleading information if the subject couldn’t be avoided. Our organizers we taught to “win by any means necessary.” We were interested in numbers not workers rights. The goal was to spend as much time as possible to completely tarnish the relationship between management and employees. Make no mistake about it; the goal of the pre-petition campaign was not to educate the voting bloc but rather to prevent the voting bloc from listening to any opposing opinion. This puts the protected party or the employee in serious danger because they are under a false pretense or oblivious to the realities of the “give and take” of contract negotiations, contract law, and the possible outcome of negotiations. I have personally seen the pre-petition organizing campaign last for over a year. The only time the employees have an opportunity to be educated on the true legal aspects of the NLRA is when management becomes aware of the union organizing activities. Then, and only then, the employees have an opportunity to hear the other side of the story with facts and examples of other’s experiences.

I can tell you first hand that without the opportunity for the employees to have a balanced education from both the union point of view and management point of view that employees will vote without clearly understanding many of the following questions that they will most likely have at one point or another if unionized:

How is going on strike going to affect me?
What is a permanent replacement worker vs. a temporary replacement worker?
What legal rights do I have to cross picket lines?
What union rules could put me in front of the union executive board on trial and what legal and financial obligations might I have?
What legal loyalties do I have to a local or international union?
Can I be a member of two unions or would I have to quit one job?
If there is a strike do I qualify for strike pay and what obligations do I have under the union constitution?
What rights do I have if as a member of a union if I don’t get fair representation?
Who do I complain to, how does a contract effect me?
Could I lose money of benefits?
What recourses do I have if union fails promises?
What are union rules and how do they affect me?
How are monthly union meetings held and what are Roberts Rules of Order?
How do I get out of the union or am I stuck?
How do I defend myself against union officers?
How are my dues money spent?
What does the union do with my money?
How can I influence the union?
What is a union constitution and how do I get a copy of it?
I have seen members who have been paying union dues for many years who don’t know the answers to these questions. If the purpose of the law is to truly protect the worker than they should be giving every opportunity to understand, as clearly as possible, what they are voting for.

The Board points out they are concerned about the employer’s abuse of the election process by stating that reports by Kate Bronfenbrenner from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Studies (which is union sponsored) on the number of Unfair Labor Practice (ULPs) charges. These reports have consistently demonstrated that the employer’s abuse of their employees is substantial; this is proven by the responses to election surveys sent out to the lead union organizers involved in the organizing campaigns. First of all, these results were never surprising as I would be shocked if the results were not pointing blame towards management as no lead organizer would critique his own skills by saying he was a ineffective organizer. To my knowledge, there is no quality control in these results or no overview. The survey and the results exist in a vacuum where no one has access to the survey data to challenge or question it. In fact, the employer would be in violation of the NLRA if they tried to take a similar survey from a management perspective. When working on as an Organizing Director, organizers were trained to use the ULP system as a organizing strategy. We taught organizers to falsely file these charges to deplete company manpower and financial resources as well as further tarnish any remaining respect and trust employees might have for management. This is not to say that there are no bad or abusive managers within the management ranks but in reality they are an exception to the norm just as there are union organizers who directly abuse any employee who disagrees with the union point of view. Using these surveys as proof of management manipulation or employer abuse is meritless.

Making the election cycle shorter will greatly damage the same employee who the law was designed to protect. By not allowing the employees to receive equal “education” from both unions and management they will potentially put their families and themselves in financial danger by making uneducated and uninformed decisions based on information given them by the union. With a shortened election, employers will rush the delivery of their message to the employees who will not have enough time to accurate digest the information to form their own educated choice.

In truth, the NLRB in its pure form should be like a referee in professional sports. The NLRB’s only job is to make sure the game remains pure and everyone plays by the defined rules. In truth, the public would never accept a professional sports referee tilting the rules to benefit either (unless the member of the public had a bet or personal interest in the game and the tilt favored their gain). The pure way, as defined by current labor law is to let the employees look at all the facts and make a decision based on what is best for them and their families. If employees choose to ignore facts as delivered by their management team then that choice should be made by the employee because it is a personal choice, not because any government agency thinks that is what the want. A truly fair system wouldn’t say the side that is winning 68% of the time needs more of an advantage. In fact, either side should accept the employees decision based on true facts presented in an unrushed but timely manner, which is what exist now.

If the NLRB truly wants to protect the employee when making their personal decision whether to vote for a union or not to vote for a union, you should allow them access to all the tools available to them, give them the respect to vote based on all the facts not on just a piece of the puzzle, and come down hard on either side that’s in violation of these rights. The result of cutting the election time for elections could be an employee going on strike, walking a picket line, or losing money in contract negotiations they couldn’t afford, or any one or a hundred reasons which could lead to an employee asking themselves why no one explained it could happen with their “Yes” vote. The NLRB would be tipping the scale too much in the favor of unions and against the best interest of employees as unions already have an unlimited time line to persuade employees before an election petition is filed. Cutting the timeline for the management to give another viewpoint is violating the very principles the NLRB was founded upon.

Thank you for your consideration,

Ricardo Torres
President & CEO
Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants

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