Jon Godfread: Congress must reverse labor board’s anti-business rule


By Jon Godfread

BISMARCK—Waylon Hedegaard of the North Dakota AFL-CIO recently criticized Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and the business community for not supporting a National Labor Relations Board decision (“Support labor ruling that keeps firms accountable,” Page A4, Oct. 22).

We understand that the NLRB’s ruling is looked at as a chance to grow membership for unions, something Hedegaard and the Obama administration support. It’s no secret that labor union membership has been declining; in North Dakota, it fell from 6.4 percent in 2013 down to 5 percent in 2014.

But what Hedegaard didn’t mention was any of the negative effects this decision would have—especially to small businesses, which are the lifeblood of our local economy.

The NLRB recently issued a series of increasingly bizarre decisions establishing new interpretations of labor law. These interpretations give unions tremendous advantages in organizing campaigns while undermining employers’ ability to share balanced information with workers.

The specific decision Hedegaard refers to broadens the definition of employer, which sets the stage for what is expected to be a drawn-out legal battle between business and organized labor that could ultimately lead to a new understanding of what it means to be working in America.

In addition, the ruling last month has redefined the joint employer standard, making businesses liable for workers they don’t actually employ.

The Greater North Dakota Chamber has expressed strong opposition to the NLRB’s decision, which radically upsets the NLRB’s longstanding joint employer standard. This decision runs roughshod over decades of settled labor law.

Hedegaard specifically criticizes franchises, which historically have been a barrier to union organizing because franchisors and franchisees have long been recognized as separate businesses. Linking the two more closely will give unions more opportunity to organize at the expense of the business model.

For example, under this new ruling, successfully organizing a single franchise could force the corporate entity to the bargaining table and remove those negotiations from the local business owners.

It will take years of litigation to sort this out, costing employers time and money. Meanwhile, job creation and increases in compensation will be damaged as businesses spend money on lawyers instead of employees.

But this is what happens when you regulate to achieve a narrow objective—in this case, a new marketplace for unions—without considering the larger consequences.

Workers should have the right to unionize—or to choose not to—under clear and fair rules. The business community has supported legitimate proposals to ensure the health, safety and rights of workers.

What we cannot support is a politically driven agenda that tries to repeal the rights of business and tilt the playing field in the unions’ favor.

Hoeven has co-sponsored a piece of legislation in the Senate that will overrule the NLRB and uphold the longstanding joint-employer status. This will provide predictability and certainty to the business community.

We’re now looking to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and others in Washington to work to strengthen the economy, serve the vast majority of employees and make decisions that help business and grow our economy, not do the political bidding of Big Labor.

Godfread is vice president of government affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

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