Statement on a Bill to Amend the NLRA

Statement on a Bill to Amend the NLRA


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



Blacks, Unions, & Organizing in the South, 1956-1996


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

George Meany  


Statement on a Bill to Amend the NLRA

Excerpts by William L. Kircher

 AFL-CIO Director, Department of Organization


The National Labor Relations Act was hailed as the Bill of Rights for the American labor Movement when it was passed in 1935. . . . It provided processes under which employees could express themselves on unionization and it further provided that certain acts of employers and their agents were unfair labor practices and therefore, illegal. . . . The provisions establishing unfair labor practices were essential . . . in protecting the right to organize if employees, in exercising that right, had to expose themselves to employer intimidation and coercion and even to loss of their jobs.


As we indicated, 94% of all employers who seek NLRB elections, ostensibly to determine whether their employees really want the union, end up conducting an anti-union campaign before that election. . . . We found from our study that 70% of all the employers who opposed the union gave captive audience speeches. A captive audience speech is one given during production time by the plant superintendent or other agent of the employer. In other words, 70% of all employers who opposed the union were willing to halt production to do it. . . . It is a rare indication indeed when an employer allows the union equal time to respond or allows the union any access whatever to the plant grounds.


We conducted a special examination of the speeches given during the past four months and found that 50% of them were given within the last 72 hours before the election. Thus they were timed to have their greatest impact and to prevent the union from utilizing other slower means of communication to respond. As a matter of fact, 7% of these speeches were given in the last 24 hours before the election. This is a violation of the Board’s election regulations, but this rather clear rule does not seem to have much impact on 7% of the employers.


It is very natural for workers to unionize because unionism and the collective bargaining process enable them to increase their wages and obtain that dignity and self respect which comes with job security. To overcome these natural tendencies the employer must create an essentially unnatural atmosphere. The ingredients of that unnatural atmosphere are nearly always fear, suspicion, division, and hatred. Employers are not reluctant to create this atmosphere even though they violate the law by doing so because they know that the sanctions they will incur are similar in effect to a slingshot used against a charging elephant. . . . To combat elephantile employer unfair labor practices we need better weapons.


Frequently the story of the union organizing campaign starts with the decision by a group of local businessmen in a small and rural-dominated community to attract industry. . . . They attempt to offer financial incentives to the company, float bond issues, and, most importantly, they promise cheap ‘cooperative’ labor.


Once the company arrives the power structure in the community feels they have a God-sent mission to keep the union out.


Incidentally, this God-sent mission to keep the union out is frequently strengthened by local business participation in the bond issue and perhaps even a partial, though minority share, in the company. How sad it is that this method of luring business turns into a trap to enslave the entire community. . . . In campaign after campaign in the Southeastern, Southwestern and Midwestern part of the United States, this issue is raised.


The local police are alerted . . . . The local newspaper is frequently deluged with anti-union editorials with the usual warnings of dire consequences if the union wins. . . . The town banker or local merchant who has extended credit to the employees is also an effective weapon in amassing pressure on the worker. . . . But sure the most heinous of all violations is blacklisting — the most primitive of all unfair labor practices. This practice can work formally or informally. . . . Under the formal system an employer in an area who fires an employee for his union activity notifies the other employers in the area. . . . Under the informal method the employee is required to state the reason for past discharges on the application form. . . .

The issue of race is often a useful tool of these union busters. If the union is attempting to organize a predominantly Negro work force, then the company pictures the union as responsible for wholesale discrimination in the building trades. But where the unit is comprised primarily of whites, the company stresses contributions made by unions to Civil Rights Groups and more specifically hints that if the union wins, Negroes will replace whites in the work force.


One of the greatest problems which the union organizer faces is the existence of the so-called “labor consultant”. . . . He exists and specializes in one thing–busting unions. A series of these firms–some lawyers and some not–have grown up in various parts of the country. They are very shrewd. The worst of the lot refuse to register under the Labor management Reporting and Disclosure Act. They build up staffs–frequently by recruiting from the NLRB. As a result they have close personal contacts with the NLRB Regional Offices and are intimately familiar with its inner workings.


Far too often a number of key union supporters are discharged shortly after such labor consultants have been hired. . . . one of the chief weapons in the labor consultant’s bag of tricks is his ability to delay the final outcome of representation and unfair labor practice cases.

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update 28 December 2011




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