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The NLRB: Policing Repeat Offenders with a Water Pistol
Written by Erin Johansson   
July 08, 2009

As a mother I’ve learned that regardless of his repeated assurances, my toddler will only stop harassing his little brother when there are real consequences to his misbehavior (i.e., no more train video). Yet when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Consolidated Biscuit with illegally harassing its union supporters–despite the company’s pledge to stop in two previous settlements—the agency didn’t provide any real consequences.

Rather than pursuing an injunction and contempt-of-court charges against the company to prevent further violations, they decided to negotiate yet another settlement. This milquetoast response to a habitual unionbuster illustrates why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, which would increase penalties for unlawful employers, and require the use of injunctions to curb employers’ bad behavior when there’s reasonable cause to believe that someone’s rights have been violated.

Consolidated Biscuit’s case began with a 2002 NLRB election during which the McComb, OH, baking company illegally intimated workers into voting against union representation, though a majority had initially signed authorization cards with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union. After the election, the company continued to harass and fire union supporters, despite two settlements and a 2004 administrative law judge ruling against it, which was upheld by a 2006 Labor Board ruling and a subsequent federal circuit court decision.

When the NLRB Region 8 office charged Consolidated Biscuit with more illegal activity in 2009 and sought a settlement, the union objected, urging the agency to pursue a tougher remedy and noting that “it is a sign of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”* The case is now pending in the NLRB office in Washington, DC.

Right now, the law leaves workers completely vulnerable when they try to form unions. If they stick their necks out, they could face harassment and termination by their employers and receive little to no protection from the government. The Employee Free Choice Act would create real consequences for companies that break the law, and ensure that the NLRB fully utilizes all the enforcement tools at its disposal.

*Letter from William Fadel of Wuliger, Fadel & Beyer, written on behalf of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union, to National Labor Relations Board Region 8, 10 June 2009.

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