Yesterday, Miller and Long Vice President and Halt The Assault spokesman Brett McMahon appeared before the National Labor Relations Board hearing on the agency’s proposed rule to dramatically shorten the period of time employees can get information from their employers after a union has filed to organize the company. Here were McMahon’s prepared remarks:
Good afternoon. My name is Brett McMahon. I am Vice President of Business Development for Miller & Long Company, Inc. I have been employed in the construction industry for 19 years.
Miller & Long Concrete Construction was founded by two combat veterans in 1947. Jack Miller and Jimmy Long started out with a pickup truck and wheelbarrow. Their first two employees were African American men who were excluded from joining the unions that dominated the trades in those days. Those two men ended up retiring from Miller & Long after more than 40 years of employment.
Throughout the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, Washington, DC was very much a union town in the construction trades. Strikes by truck drivers and other trades routinely shut down all work in the city and construction workers missed out on a lot of income.
Starting in the 70′s, things began to change. Unions began to get stuck on big public works projects, such as the Metro system, and the private commercial market took a chance on merit shop constructors.
Workers discovered that they did not need a union to work in the industry. Construction boomed in the 80′s and unions found themselves further and further outside the cost model. Today, other than elevators and escalators, there is no specialty trade in which unions hold a majority.
Big Labor’s loss of market share was not the result of some designed, organized effort. It was the market. Every business model that fails to adapt to a changing market has a choice: adapt or disappear.
Keeping hard working men and women employed is a serious challenge today. Competition is vicious and it seems like every day there is a new regulation or proposed legislation that will make our investment even more risky. No private business person I know is very optimistic. The perception of our current government in the eyes of businessmen and women is simply this: The government is against us.
Miller & Long has been under some form of attempt at union organization for most of our 64 years in business. We have never had a vote because unions have never been able to demonstrate to our employees that they can get them a better deal than they already receive from us. We cannot imagine running a business where we would even need a go-between to relate to our employees. We respect our men and women and we work hard to retain their respect as well.
The proposed rule change is profoundly disrespectful to the people that it would affect: workers around the country. It shows no respect for their intelligence or their judgment. It is patently unfair to make it virtually impossible for an employer to present the other side of the organizer’s pitch. How can anyone in good conscience take away the opportunity to discover the truth and weigh their options from someone? Were any of the lawyers in the room required to take the bar exam after their first year of law school? How many doctors had to take their MCATs as freshmen in college? None of that seems reasonable because it would deprive the participant of a complete set of information. Why would you deny the same level of respect to workers during an organizing drive?
There have been numerous decisions by this Board that highlight hazards for unsuspecting workers. This Board allows organizers to exaggerate and make promises which have no weight during negotiations. For example, in Wolfrich Corporation, dba Thrifty Rent-A-Car, 234 N.L.R.B. 525, this Board permits organizers to tell workers they can make more money, even if that is not necessarily true, because “employees generally understand that a union cannot automatically obtain benefits by winning an election, but must attempt to achieve them through the collective-bargaining process.” Furthermore, in Coach & Equipment Sales Corp; 228 NLRB 441 the Board asserted that: “[C]ollective bargaining is potentially hazardous for employees and that as a result of such negotiations employees might possibly wind up with less benefits after unionization than before.“ Is it remotely reasonable to expect every person to know such things?
Changing one’s working conditions is a matter of upmost significance, affecting their immediate and long term future. Such a decision is more personal and important than any political election, yet we expect extended political campaigns where both sides make their case. A politician would show profound disrespect to voters if they were to stand for election without campaigning.
What is to be feared from a reasonable argument given over a reasonable period of time? Significant regulation already exists to limit the speech of the employer yet no such restrictions exist for union organizers, and there has been no indication that a change such as the one proposed is necessary. There is no demand for it other than from pro-union allies.
The small employer is nearly hamstrung at the start even if they are aware of an organizing effort. Many employers are not aware of the effort until the organizer presents their cards. Most small businesses do not retain employment counsel. In fact, until the recent headlines, I doubt many small employers had even heard of the NLRB.
With all of the challenges in the current economy, it is unreasonable to expect an employer to drop everything and then respond in the potential time frame contemplated by this rule.
Again, what is to fear from a fully engaged presentation of the facts from the employer’s perspective? Certainly any Board charged with guaranteeing workplace rights should be guaranteeing that those workers are shown the proper respect. That respect is demonstrated by ensuring that both sides of an argument that is so important to their working lives are given ample opportunity to be heard and understood. Under Section 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act, an employer’s right of free speech is protected, but this proposed rule change undermines that right. What good is a right if there is no practical way to assert it? This Board should not adopt this rule.
Were it to adopt this rule, the NLRB will have firmly planted itself on the side of unions and in opposition to employers and workers and reason. Unions have been winning over 60% of the elections that are held, so what is the need for this change? What would a satisfactory percentage be? 70%, 90% or is it 100%? It is foolish to think that this body can force lasting change on the marketplace. It has never worked. All the Board is doing is increasing the risk of success of America’s employers. The NLRB is making itself a hazard to the economic well being of working people by chilling the entrepreneurial spirit of free enterprise that has brought more prosperity to more people than any other system in human history. It is not now, nor will it ever be, the single catalyst that causes large lay offs or stifles job creation. Rather it is the series of actions that this Board takes that add to the weight that hurts businesses today. Don’t adopt this rule. It is unwise in this economic climate and it is unfair to workers and employers.
We will add video when the NLRB makes it available.