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Workers' Rights Advocacy Group Sounds the Alarm
 "Workers need more protection, not less,"
says David Bonior, Chair of new advocacy group,
American Rights at Work

June 10, 2004

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC -- Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it will review a case that reconsiders the long-used practice of forming a union through voluntary recognition.  In this process, companies agree to recognize a union that has collected signature cards from a majority of workers indicating their desire to join, without forcing workers to go through potentially contentious elections.

Contemplating a radical change in U.S. labor law on voluntary recognition could further expose workers to potential intimidation and harassment by employers, a common practice during union organizing drives.  "Workers who want a voice on the job need more protection, not less," says David Bonior, who serves as Chair of American Rights at Work, a new Washington-DC based nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to defending workers' rights. "By changing the law, the NLRB may further inhibit workers from exercising their freedom of association."

Each year more than 10,000 workers file charges with the NLRB alleging that they were illegally fired or discriminated against for attempting to form a union. Fifty years ago, workers who suffered reprisals for exercising this freedom only numbered in the hundreds each year.  According to Cornell University researcher Kate Brofenbrenner, 75% of employers hire consultants to help them fight union organizing drives. A staggering 92% of employers force employees to attend mandatory captive audience meetings in which workers often must listen to anti-union presentations by corporate representatives that can go on for hours. American Rights at Work has collected hundreds of stories from workers across the country who have endured surveillance, demotion, and termination due to their support for a union during an organizing campaign.

In a startling move, three members of the five-person National Labor Relations Board asserted the "superiority of Board supervised secret-ballot elections." Meanwhile, citing the Board's own 1966 decision (Keller Plastics Eastern, Inc., 157 N.L.R.B. 583, 61 LRRM 1396), the two dissenting members stated that the "recognition bar has stood the test of time. To revisit it serves no purpose but to undermine a principle that has been endorsed time and again by the Board and the courts."

Drawing from the NLRB's own data to examine recent summaries and decisions, American Rights at Work's new research project, "Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB," is monitoring the sufficiency of existing laws and the NLRB to protect workers who attempt to form unions. Each month the group releases information on its website (  Monday's edition (posted on 06/07/04) reviews a recent case in which workers had to wait 259 days (8 months) to learn the outcome of their election.  The NLRB often takes months and even years to render decisions.

"Most Americans know little about the NLRB," says American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell, "but this federal agency, charged with enforcing U.S. labor law, makes critical decisions that affect workers' lives and freedoms.  We all need to keep an eye on the NLRB as it contemplates radical changes to the law."