The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 09, 2006

'More supervisors!' expected to be NLRB anti-union battle cry

By The Building Tradesman

There hasn't been much news over the last two years concerning some critical labor law cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that could "deal a major setback to the struggling labor movement's efforts in growing areas of the economy…." - like construction, said the Wall Street Journal on May 26.

But that will change in the next few months, as organized labor readies for NLRB decisions that will likely prevent significant numbers of workers from being organized.

Back in June 2003, President Bush's Labor Department announced new rules designed to restrict the ability of millions of U.S. workers to get overtime pay. The new rules, introduced at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, would allow employers to reclassify workers as "administrators" or "supervisors," which would exempt those workers from earning overtime under current law. They would also be exempt from being covered by a collectively bargained contract.

Employers could impose the switch even if the workers' job involved only negligible supervisory duties. Nurses are seen as a major target for the change, since one of the NLRB cases was brought by workers in that profession.

"This will have a far-reaching impact on workers," predicted AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to the Journal, of the impending NLRB ruling. Hundreds of thousands of workers could be barred from joining unions because of their new "supervisor" status.

There isn't a lot of confidence that any ruling will go labor's way - the National Labor Relations Board is all Bush appointees, and the majority will almost certainly side with the president.

The Journal and other media have speculated that the "supervisor" titles could easily be imposed on construction workers, especially those who might have added responsibilities with scheduling or making job assignments.

Workers currently toiling under a collective bargaining agreement won't be affected if the new rules are imposed, at least until their contracts expire.