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Opinion

Obama NLRB harasses Hyatt in union dispute

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Furthering its war on job creators, the National Labor Relations Board has charged Hyatt Hotels with unfair labor practices for many provisions in its written policies and employee handbooks, according to a March 28 report from the Bureau of National Affairs Daily Labor Report. NLRB has set a hearing for May 2, at which time the agency's ongoing campaign against common-sense business practices will be put to the test.

According to DLR, Hyatt's employee handbook includes provisions, for example, that ask employees to refrain from commenting about Hyatt on social media sites; prevent employees from disclosing confidential information or misrepresenting financial information; bar disparaging, derogatory or unfounded statements about the company and its employees; require acknowledgement that employment is "at-will"; and limit employees to wearing one union pin.

In other words, Hyatt has instituted the same tame employment policies that are common to many companies. What's more, the company says that some of these policies are necessary for Securities and Exchange Commission compliance. Nonetheless, the NLRB's acting general counsel is seeking an order requiring Hyatt to end the written policies.

The NLRB now includes three new members -- two Democrats and one Republican -- appointed by President Obama in January as "recess appointments." These appointments are certain to be challenged in court as the Senate Republicans have taken the position that the Senate was not actually in recess. But for the time being, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson -- an Obama appointee -- has ruled that the NLRB board members' authority cannot be challenged by the people they're supposed to be regulating.

It is a real stretch for the NLRB to claim that Hyatt's social media and appearance guidelines are "overly broad" or "discriminatory." The policies being questioned are quite common, and Hyatt maintains that they exist in part to comply with other laws. In fact, the NLRB complaint is really an attempt to use the power of the government to punish Hyatt for an unrelated, ongoing conflict with the union representing many of its employees.

Hyatt and the NLRB have been at odds for more than year over the UNITE HERE union's actions. The scheduled NLRB hearing is based on a complaint filed by UNITE HERE in July 2011. Hyatt told DLR that the complaint is part of the union's "multiyear campaign against Hyatt to try to impose union membership through cardcheck/neutrality at several nonunion hotels."

When the NLRB was created in 1935, President Roosevelt declared its purpose was to forge greater ties and ensure harmony between labor and management. Sadly, the Obama NLRB has become a tool of union appointees intent on choking American business and the U.S. economy. If the president is serious about his pledge to find ways to reduce the regulatory burden on American businesses, he'll rein in the NLRB and other out-of-control regulatory agencies -- like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose raid on Gibson Guitars defies logic. These agencies' actions continue to handcuff business and America's economic recovery.

The federal government shouldn't be in the business of punishing American companies on behalf of union interests. Instead, it should be fostering a healthy relationship among government, labor and business to create an atmosphere in which all can thrive.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."

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