(David Mansdoerfer) – This morning, after the first full night of sleep I have had since the birth of my son eight weeks ago, I began my usual scan through of the various local and national news sources in search for the hot topics of the day. Two stories, the NFL lockout being lifted and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vs. Boeing, came to the forefront of my attention.
In one, the recently ‘decertified’ player union won a major victory when Judge Susan Richard Nelson lifted the lockout that had been imposed by owners during the battle over the collective bargaining agreement.
In the other, the NLRB filed to stop Boeing from building its new 787-Dreamliner manufacturing plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
Both stories show the current battle over union power throughout the United States, and, to my dismay, show that unions are trying to change the rules in which the game must be played.
Both of these stories have wide ranging public policy implications.
On one side, the NFL, which is roughly an $8 billion industry, is forging a new path for employer-employee relations outside the realm of collective bargaining agreements and the jurisdiction of the NLRB. Lost in the midst over money squabbles; drug testing, player safety, and player eligibility could all shape the way the NFL, as well as other professional sporting leagues and entertainment industries, are governed.
By ‘decertifying’, and forgoing the rights of collective bargaining, the NFL Players Association is employing a new tactic that could undermine the very sensibilities of the United States legal system by exposing it to thousands of frivolous lawsuits as union members ‘decertify’. What is important to note about this, is that it is clear that even though the unions have ‘decertified’, union influence remains as powerful as it was during the collective bargaining process.
This is a scary scenario as more states look to follow in the footsteps of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature. Could the Unions have found a loophole that allows them to meet their end goals outside of the realm of collective bargaining?
In the NLRB vs. Boeing scenario, the NLRB is trying to stop Boeing from expanding production of its 787-Dreamliner into South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
Right-to-work states prohibit agreements between employers and labor unions that require union dues as a condition of employment. Currently, the construction of the 787-Dreamliner is set to be done in Everett, Washington, under strict union contractual agreements. If the NLRB is successful, and blocks Boeing from being able to expand production of its 787-Dreamliner in a right-to-work state, union power over U.S. manufacturing companies will grow to an unprecedented level.
By requiring union controlled manufacturing companies to limit their production to states that allow the collection of union dues as a condition of employment, the NLRB is trying to create a watered-down version of a command economy in which the government controls price (bidding) and manufacturing (union requirements). This will help to further depress the U.S. manufacturing sector and continue to drive thousands of jobs overseas.
As an avid football fan, I would be extremely saddened if there was no professional football next year. However, allowing the NFLPA to decertify, and then control the situation outside of the normal rules of collective bargaining, could adversely impact the professional sports industry and cause unmitigated chaos throughout the entertainment sector.
As an avid believer in the free market, I would be furious if the government and unions suddenly had the ability to control where a fortune 500 company manufactured its goods. This would drive employment costs up and drive thousands of jobs overseas.
Unions are trying to change the rules to benefit them. We must hope that the NFLPA and NLRB are unsuccessful in their attempts to change the rules of the game. If not, union power is going to greatly expand throughout the United States.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)