Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court's ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case in Foley Square in New York City on June 27, 2018. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Under Cover of Pandemic, Trump's NLRB Moves to Make Unionizing 'Nearly Impossible for Workers'

"The Trump NLRB takes this moment to publish a rule that will make it harder both for workers to unionize and to keep unions they have. Shameful does not even begin to describe this."

Jake Johnson

The National Labor Relations Board finalized a rule this week that critics warn could make unionizing "nearly impossible for workers" at a moment when employees across the nation are fighting for stronger protections against the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed rule change from the board—which is controlled by three appointees of President Donald Trump—was published in the Federal Register on April 1. The new rule would eliminate the NLRB's "blocking charge policy," which permits the delay of union election results if the employer is accused of unlawful coercion or other unfair labor practices.

"The board is effectively sealing off any viable path to unionization at a time when workers need a voice on the job more than ever."
—Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO

The proposal would also allow employees to file for decertification of a union in as few as 45 days after the union is voluntarily recognized by an employer. Under the new rule, a petition for decertification could be filed if just 30% of employees in a bargaining unit support the move.

Opponents of the new rule said the changes could empower employees to illegally manipulate union election results and allow a minority of workers to decertify a union that a majority of workers voted to form.

The rule is set to take effect on May 31 after a 60-day public comment period.

Heidi Shierholz, labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), called the rule change "unbelievable."

"The Trump NLRB takes this moment to publish a rule that will make it harder both for workers to unionize and to keep unions they have," tweeted Shierholz. "Shameful does not even begin to describe this."

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement that "the board is effectively sealing off any viable path to unionization at a time when workers need a voice on the job more than ever."

"Donald Trump's caustic hostility to collective bargaining has manifested itself in the most anti-worker NLRB in America's history," said Trumka. "The labor movement will fight these actions with everything we have."

The proposed rule comes as grocery store employees and other workers deemed essential amid the coronavirus outbreak are walking off the job and holding "sick outs" to protest unsanitary workplaces and lack of protective gear.

The new rule marks the second time in less than a month that the Trump administration has advanced a union-busting proposal.

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, unions accused Trump of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to attack organized labor after the Federal Labor Relations Authority issued a rule proposal that would allow federal employees to cancel union dues at any time after a year of membership, rather than in the annual 15-day window established under current law.

In a blog post on Tuesday responding to the NLRB proposal, EPI government affairs director Celine McNicholas wrote that "it is unconscionable that the agency responsible for ensuring workers have the right to a voice in the workplace has denied them the ability to exercise these rights."

"Today and in the coming weeks, many workers will walk off the job over concerns for their health and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," McNicholas wrote. "These workers are risking their lives to deliver services that have been deemed essential to our nation."

"At the very least," said McNicholas, "we should demand that the federal agency responsible for ensuring these workers have the rights to a union and collective bargaining use our taxpayer dollars to conduct union elections for workers who want representation, as opposed to issuing rules that make it harder for workers to have a voice on the job."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Jayapal Says Corporate-Friendly No Labels Shows 'True Colors' by Undermining Jan. 6 Investigation

"To malign the January 6 Committee as a 'partisan exercise' is a dangerous message for the American public and our democracy—one that deeply undermines the committee's work and denies the truth about the Republican Party."

Brett Wilkins ·

As End of Roe Looms, US Doctors Say 'Abortion Is Essential Healthcare'

"Although ACOG's long-standing abortion policy supported safe, legal, evidence-based abortion care, the current reproductive health crisis calls for revisions which make it unmistakably clear that ACOG trusts doctors and patients," said the group.

Julia Conley ·

Biaggi to Primary 'Selfish Corporate Democrat' Sean Patrick Maloney in NY

The New York state senator says she's running "to protect and defend our democracy, to halt the climate crisis, to grow our supply of affordable housing, and to transform our government and economy to serve us all."

Andrea Germanos ·

'Not About Nostalgia': Poor People's Campaign Marches in Memphis Ahead of DC Gathering

"It's been 54 years since the sanitation worker's march," said Bishop William J. Barber II, "and right here in Memphis they still don't have union rights."

Kenny Stancil ·

Greenhouse Gases Trapped Nearly 50% More Heat Last Year Than in 1990: NOAA

"Getting hot in here," said one climate campaigner. "Gotta get congressmen and senators to do more midday outdoor events in their dark suits."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo