This was not a good year for organized labor. Despite expending massive resources, Big Labor could not oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a recall; Michigan, home of the United Auto Workers, became a right-to-work state; the Supreme Court ruled against unionists in the landmark case Knox v. SEIU, limiting their ability to extract dues from nonmembers; and union numbers continued to dwindle, falling to just 6.9 percent of the private sector.
But Big Labor may have won the battle that matters the most: the presidential election. In the last month, the White House has since been busy rewriting regulations in a way that favors unions at every turn.
Unions just don't have the power to force their own agenda through anymore. But the next-best thing to having power is having friends with power, and they have a friend in President Obama.
For example, the Labor Department will introduce a new rule next year requiring employers to divulge all information on labor consultants they hire. This will drive many of these consultants -- mostly small law firms -- out of the business completely.
Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board -- which is nominally independent but whose majority has been appointed by President Obama -- is working on a new rule requiring employers to turn over all employee contact information to unions during their organizing drives, something that will greatly help them identify prospective members. The workers themselves will have no say in this.
Just last week, the NLRB released a number of decisions that further rewrote the rules in Big Labor's favor. In the case United Nurses and Allied Professionals v. Jeanette Geary, the NLRB effectively undermined the Supreme Court's Knox ruling.
In Knox, the court affirmed that while unions can force nonmembers in most states to pay dues, the money can be used only for collective bargaining expenses. Unions cannot force those same workers to subsidize their political activity.
In Geary, however, the board's Democratic majority ruled that nonunion workers do not have a right to demand an audit or other independent confirmation that the union is following the law. They literally have to take the union's word for it.
Earlier this month, The Washington Examiner called on House Republicans to pass legislation to codify the Knox ruling. We renew that call today. The NLRB's action makes clear it is a necessity.
As if that weren't enough, the NLRB also announced last week that it was tossing out the 50-year-old Bethlehem Steel precedent. Since 1962, the law held that once a union contract runs out, businesses no longer have to automatically deduct union dues from workers' paychecks.
No longer. Now businesses must continue to deduct dues even after a contract runs out. That will make it a lot easier for unions to retain members during contract negotiations, boosting their leverage with management.
All these decisions were made while the NLRB had one nominal Republican to register a dissent. Now that lone watchman, Brian Hayes, is gone, his term having expired. So expect a lot more rulings like Bethlehem Steel from the all-Democrat NLRB.