In two rulings last week the National Labor Relations Board decided that charter schools are private corporations whose employees must organize if they want to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act as opposed to state laws for organizing public employees.
These are generally positive decisions. Charter schools are not public schools; they are private schools that the public pays for. Note the 2-1 split on the Board in these NLRB decisions. The two Democrats voted that charters are not public schools while the Republican said they are public schools.
NLRB members are appointed by the President of the United States for five year terms and are confirmed by the Senate.
President Obama's education policy is for the most part worse than we had under President George W Bush. However, a federal bureaucracy including the NLRB run by Republicans presents a major problem for working people, particularly unions.
Read this analysis of labor policy under Bush from Inquires Journal if you don't think it matters to workers which party controls the Department of Labor and the NLRB.
Here is a key line:
This politicization has been widely criticized as having damaged the fairness of decisions rendered by the NLRB. Instead of impartial members making fair decisions, we now see the NLRB disproportionately favoring unions when a Democrat is President, and favoring management when a Republican is President.
Before anyone jumps on me, I am fully aware that the UFT is covered for the most part under the New York State Public Employees Relations Board and not the NLRB but having a Democrat in the White House gives labor a bit more of a chance against our over-funded enemies. The decision that charter schools are private corporations can be used by us to further the cause of real public education.
Overall, the situation for working people under Obama has not improved much in terms of changing labor law. However, under Bush it was worse. Read this example from Inquiries:
One controversial decision made by Bush's NLRB concerned workers' "Weingarten" rights. The name "Weingarten comes from a previous NLRB decision, and refers to the right on an employee to request the presence of a coworker or union official at any investigatory interview that the employee reasonably believes might result in disciplinary action. The Weingarten representative is present at an interview in order to recall facts that an employee might have forgotten or not been aware of, and to suggest other employees who could have information concerning the case, in order to present a more well-rounded version of what happened in any labor dispute. At the time of Bush's inauguration, non-union workers were able to request the presence of a coworker at such an interview. Bush's NLRB decided to remove this right from all non-union workers which is about 90% of the American workforce. In defense of this decision, the Bush NLRB argued that: coworkers, unlike union representatives, do not represent the interests of the entire workforce; that coworkers do not redress the imbalance of power between employers and employees; that coworkers do not possess the same knowledge base and skill set as a union representative; and that having a coworker present at an investigatory interview could limit the confidentiality of investigatory interviews.
The arguments made by the Bush NLRB in defense of their Weingarten decision do not hold up to much scrutiny, as the National Labor Relations Act is quite clear on this issue. Section 7of the NLRA states that all employees have the right to "engage in...concerted activities for the purpose of...mutual aid or protection." The act does not limit this right to unionized employees, nor does it say that employees may only seek assistance from a representative with certain skills and motives. The confidentiality argument is weak as well, considering that the risk of breach in secrecy is exactly the same with a union representative as with a coworker. However, due to the Chevron decision, no court or governing body is able to evaluate the decision made by this NLRB. This decision limits the Weingarten rights of union employees as well. As was the case with many of their decisions, the Bush NLRB shaped policy in a broad manner, which often did not concern the case at hand. Instead of simply deciding which workers would receive Weingarten rights, the Bush NLRB put more power in the hand of employers who are faced with an employee choosing to exercise his or her Weingarten rights. Following the decision, employers can end the interview at any time, and can choose to refuse any negotiation with the Weingarten representative, Employers can now refuse to discuss certain information, such as medical records, while a Weingarten representative is present. The two labor representatives on the NLRB issued a biting dissent to this decision. They charged that this decision violates Section 7 of the NLRA, by denying American working people the right to seek "mutual aid and Protection," by having a coworker assist them in a meeting that could mean a termination of their employment. The dissenting NLRA members stated, "it is our colleagues who are taking a step backwards... They have over-ruled a sound decision not because they must, and not because they should, but because they can."
(Footnotes were taken out. Please go to Inquires link above for exact citations.)
Control over the federal bureaucracy and judiciary are the main reasons I still usually vote Democrat.