Local View Column / Good times, bad times for labor: Workers take hit right when we need them most
The support lines of this pandemic war are staffed by soldiers who weren’t obvious until they were: Grocery and gas station workers, janitorial staff, delivery personnel, and retail workers for essential business are among them. These workers are in a constant state of exposure, showing up to work daily to help us obtain what we need, everyday items, suddenly scarce, and to ensure cleanliness, suddenly the definition of safety.
Perspective about who and what are necessary has quickly and permanently changed. We are grateful to the people taking care of us at great personal risk to themselves. They deserve our greatest respect and consideration.
On April 1, the National Labor Relations Board (its three current members appointed by President Donald Trump) moved to eliminate the “blocking charge policy,” which is the delay of union election results for pending Unfair Labor Practice charges, and to allow decertification campaigning to start 45 days after the election to certify a union. This is a greatly shortened timeline in an existing process.
So, should groups of our unsung heroes choose to organize and bargain — perhaps for protective gear, improved working conditions, better wages, or health care — and should their efforts be met with union-busting or coercion, no time would be given nor verdict delivered to deter that action. This means that quick decertification may be a secondary goal by a bad actor, or the possibility for it may deter the beginning of good-faith bargaining.
By issuing these rules, the very body charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act — the act that guarantees employees the right to organize, engage in group efforts to improve their wages and working conditions, and collectively bargain if they so choose — has made a mockery of its own purported purpose.
These rule changes are an assault likely to be suffered by those most exposed to the pandemic: our rescuers and fellow fighters. What a perverse time to weaken worker power. Under the cloak of a crisis, Trump’s NLRB took aim at workers with yet another repugnant regulatory labor change.
Kristin Renskers of Duluth is a business representative of IBEW Local #31.