The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), commonly referred to as the Wagner Act, exempted small businesses from union organization, but the definition of small business has not been updated since 1959. The exemption ends when a small, non-retail business grosses $50,000 in a single year; for retail operations, the figure is $500,000 a year.
However, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) now before Congress contains no exemption, nor any updating of the NLRA exemption. Thus…
Using census data, the Heritage Foundation (admittedly a pro-business, pro-capitalist outfit) estimates that 4,180,000 U.S. small businesses employing 38,934,000 Americans could end up being unionized.
The Foundation poses this scenario: Say you own an automobile repair shop employing five people. A union guy comes by at the close of work one day and corrals three of them into a local pub, where they all sign cards authorizing a union. Now, using a typical tactic, the union rep might call these cards “requests for information” or some such, but anyway, the shop is thereby unionized.
You, the owner, now have 10 days to begin negotiating with union guy, who now represents all your employees. He makes deliberately ridiculous demands for wages, benefits and working conditions, demands to which you could never accede and stay in business, so you refuse. In 90 days, rep guy calls in a federal mediator, but his demands stay the same. After 30 days, the mediator calls in an arbitrator, who then dictates a two-year contract that splits the difference between what you proposed and what union blackmailer wanted.
Result: Your costs go up by 50 percent, and you go out of business. You go back home and start working out of your garage, making as much or more than you did owning a business. Meanwhile, five people are out of work, but union guy has moved down the street to organize other small businesses.