While in 2022 there’s never a lack of news to follow and absorb, we at Public Citizen are always keeping a watchful eye on the actions of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After all, this mainstay corporate advocacy organization has long since made itself an enemy to most progressive ideals, causes, and issues. But what’s the latest target of their toxic advocacy?
Recently, President Biden’s appointed General Counsel of the NLRB, Jennifer Abruzzo, submitted a legal brief requesting that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) restore prior precedent and reimplement the Joy Silk Doctrine when making their decisions on labor union bargaining enforcement, triggering the ire of the consistently employer biased U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Given the improvement to workers’ lives and morale increased unionization could bring, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Chamber came out so strongly against it, declaring that “we will oppose this action with every tool a tour disposal, including litigation if needed”.
But let’s slow down. Joy Silk what?
🧵In 1949, in a case called Joy Silk Mills, the NLRB announced it would order an employer to recognize and bargain with a union, where the union presented evidence of majority support and the employer refused recognition without a good faith doubt as to the union’s majority.
— NLRB General Counsel (@NLRBGC) April 13, 2022
Put simply, the Joy Silk Doctrine mandates that the NLRB order employers to negotiate and recognize unions if they do not possess a good faith doubt that they possess a majority. If no good faith doubt is present, employers would be subject to punishment for unfair labor practices as a matter of law. The burden of proof would now be on the employer to prove to the Labor Board their rationale for the union’s lack of majority status. By returning to this prior precedent, unions would be able to be recognized based on signed cards expressing majority worker support, bypassing the oft times destructive union election process.
Our introduction to the Joy Silk Doctrine takes us all the way back to the charmed year of 1949 with the National Labor Relations Board case. All of this should sound glaringly familiar, as companies around the country regularly use “requests for elections” simply to create colossal corporate campaigns to whittle down union support. In fact, a 2019 study by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that employers are charged with violating federal labor laws in over 40% of all union election campaigns. Not exactly a fair fight.
For a timely example, look no further than the consistent anti-union activities of Amazon. Being one of the largest employers in the country, a successful unionization at Amazon would be a galvanizing effort for workers’ rights everywhere. And last year, in Bessemer, Alabama, their anti-union methods came out in full force, conducting improper surveillance, mounting a multi- million-dollar anti-union campaign, and even going as far as changing traffic signals to make it harder for labor organizers to interact with the Amazon workers. So even though the recent union victory last month in New York despite these harmful tactics is nothing to sneeze at, wouldn’t it be better if there was a way to bypass this whole process in the first place?
We at Public Citizen think so. Public Citizen continue to monitor the Chamber’s actions, and push for both the re adoption of the Joy Silk Doctrine. The power balance between workers and employers has been woefully unequal for far too long.