Keeping your private information safe from the NLRB's overreach

Over the past few months, you have likely heard about proposals promulgated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) aimed at making changes to the union election process.  From its decision against Boeing, Inc. in South Carolina to its choice to implement ambush elections, the NLRB has repeatedly overstepped its authority, proving that it is no longer an unbiased intermediary between employers and unions.  Through these steps, the NLRB has boldly interjected itself into the lives of millions of Americans, while signaling its support for President Obama’s agenda.

However, the NLRB’s overreach doesn’t stop there.  Since 1966, employers have been required to hand over a list of all eligible employees’ names and addresses, known as an “Excelsior” list, to the regional director of the NLRB within seven days after a union election has been called and at least 10 days prior to an election being held.  The list is then turned over to union organizers, enabling them to contact employees prior to the election.  On June 22, 2011, the NLRB issued a proposed rule which would require “both telephone numbers and, where available, email addresses be included…on the eligibility list.” 

While in the final rule issued by the NLRB on Dec. 22, 2011, the provision to expand the scope of the Excelsior list was not included, this was largely due to the Board’s inability to reach a three-member quorum as required by the National Labor Relations Act.  President Obama’s recent unconstitutional appointment of three new members to the five-person Board will undoubtedly change the situation.  These unconstitutional appointments will not only eliminate any hope of the NLRB’s objectivity, but will provide the president with a vehicle to push his own agenda.  They also give the Board the green light to expand the Excelsior list to include private sector employees’ telephone numbers and email addresses. 

This is evidenced by recent comments made by the newly emboldened NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce.  As reported by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, 2012, Pearce stated, “We keep our eye on the prize,” regarding the proposed rule and that he wants to make the NLRB “a household word” for all workers.  Pearce also attempted to pull the wool over Americans’ eyes by downplaying the significance of the potential change by stating that his “goal is to create a set of rules that eliminate a lot of waste of time, energy and money for the taxpayers.”  What Pearce fails to mention is that this potential rule infringes upon an employee’s right to privacy, and could lead to the dismantling of public policy that has been in place for almost 50 years.

The NLRB was originally created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act and to serve as an unbiased arbitrator between labor unions and employers.  Despite its original mission, the NLRB has sharply veered from the purpose for which it was established.  Through the proposed rule to expand the Excelsior list, the NLRB has unabashedly encroached itself into employees’ privacy. 

It is because of the need to protect employees from the NLRB’s overreach that I recently introduced H.R. 3991, the Keeping Employees’ Emails and Phones (KEEP) Secure Act.  This simple, two-page bill safeguards employees from being forced to provide to either the NLRB or a labor union their telephone number or email address.  As the NLRB continues to overstep its bounds, Congress has a duty to step in and act when warranted.

Employees have the right to know that their telephone number and email address will be kept confidential by their employer, and the KEEP Secure Act must be passed to prevent the NLRB from gaining access to that personal information.