Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
October 12, 2023
On October 5, Bloomberg Government reported on the results of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Inspector General’s investigation into allegations of misconduct during a mail-ballot election at a Starbucks store in Kansas. These allegations first surfaced in August 2022, when Starbucks wrote to the NLRB detailing statements by an internal agency whistleblower.
These allegations were outlined in a U.S. Chamber report and included NLRB officials making secret arrangements to allow pro-union voters to cast ballots in person (despite this being a mail-ballot election), providing extra mail ballots to certain voters, disclosing real-time details of how the balloting was unfolding to the union, mishandling ballots that had been cast, and attempting to conceal their activities intended to secure a union victory.
In September, an NLRB Regional Director threw out the union’s win at the Overland Park, KS location and ordered a rerun election, based on the agency’s having tainted the result. Making this a confusing situation for the NLRB, another Board official has already issued a so-called Gissel bargaining order mandating that Starbucks recognize the union before any rerun election can take place. As the Chamber noted, it certainly appears as though the NLRB rushed a Gissel order into place knowing the original union win would be thrown out as a result of the agency’s misconduct. It will be interesting to see how the NLRB decides to solve this internal conflict.
At the time the NLRB’s misconduct came to light, the agency’s Inspector General announced an inquiry, which has now been made public after a long delay. Its principal findings are direct and withering:
In other words, the NLRB engaged in “gross misconduct” to secure a union win in an election in a way that compromised the agency’s integrity and then tried to cover it up.
It’s been obvious for some time that the current Board majority and the General Counsel strongly support unions and think the country needs more of them. Through case decisions and rule making, they are trying to bring that result about. But it had been unclear just how far down the chain this pro-union sentiment had spread. Now we have evidence.
The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral arbiter that helps resolve workplace disputes and conducts elections in a manner that is fair to workers, employers, and unions. In the case of Overland Park, it clearly was not. The real concern now is, where else has the Board failed to fulfill its proper role that we just don’t know about?
About the authors
Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.