Imagine if a person stopped you on the street and said this:
“I want to rob your house. The government says I can borrow your house keys, so hand them over.”
Forking over those keys would be just about the last thing any sane person would be inclined to do. But for the past five years, nursing home operators basically have had to do just that.
That’s because until the National Labor Relations Board came to its senses last month, operators (and all businesses for that matter) were required to let employees use company email for union-related activities, including organizing. And, no, I am not making this up.
There’s no need to cite the myriad reasons why a union shop is an undesirable thing from a management perspective. So I’ll just point out the most obvious one: It makes survival in a tough business that much more difficult.
Is politics involved in last week’s reversal? Of course. Republicans now control the NLRB. It’s no coincidence that the board has taken a pro-business stance since that happened. Just as the NLRB had a decidedly pro-labor bent when Democrats ruled the roost. So, yeah, there’s that.
And to be clear, I grew up a child of immigrants. My father was a union guy to his core. His membership in the International Union of Operating Engineers was a major reason why he remained employed for most of his adult life. I don’t have a beef with unions. They have done and continue to do many noble things for workers.
But to me, this issue transcends a binary divide. It’s simply wrong to force a person or company to do something that might lead to ruination.
And that is what a mandate to help unionization activities (by providing hardware and software that aids in the effort) has been accomplishing here.
Is my proud-to-be-a-union-member father spinning in his grave right now? I doubt it.
Yes, he believed in unions. But he also believed in common sense.
The provision in place for the past half decade served the former at the expense of the latter.
The NLRB’s reversal was way overdue.
John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s.