Unions have good reason to thank President Obama, who has gone to unprecedented lengths to reverse demographic trends and public sentiment to help unions cling to power. In the past 100 years, Americans have never thought less of organized labor. This disenchantment didn’t happen overnight – Gallup polls show that Americans increasingly disapprove of labor unions and think they should have less power.
Given this negative perception of unions, it is not surprising that union membership has dropped dramatically: Twenty-four percent of America’s workforce was unionized in 1979 while only 12 percent are unionized today. Trying their best to buck this 30-year trend, unions began lobbying for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) – more commonly known as "card check" – during the tail end of the Bush administration. Card check would have stopped unions’ membership from deteriorating further. It would have allowed unions to bully workers into unionization by eliminating the private ballot during union elections.
After spending hundreds of millions of dollars during the 2008 election cycle to help Democrats secure both chambers of Congress, unions had their best chance to have card check signed into law. However, the 111th Congress came and went without even a vote on EFCA. Constituents barred their representatives from even considering this legislation. It turns out the same Americans who don’t want to join a union in the first place don’t want to be forced into a union.
With Congress no longer a viable vehicle to implement pro-union policy, the Obama administration began using federal agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the National Mediation Board (NMB) to achieve similar ends. Appointing former union officials to both federal agencies, Mr. Obama’s unabashedly pro-union appointees went to work writing rules to facilitate unionization.
The National Mediation Board – the federal agency that oversees union-employer relations in the transportation sector – overturned 75 years of accepted law to tilt the scales in unions’ favor come election time. Traditionally, for a union to win representation, a majority of workers had to vote yes for the union. Under the new NMB rule, only a majority of voting workers have to agree to unionize. This is especially problematic as it is practically impossible to decertify a union in the transportation industry – no body of workers with more than 400 members has ever decertified a union.