Poster rule poster child for government run amok

Dan Danner
Dan Danner

As election day approaches, small business owners are beginning to attract lots of notice, especially from vote-seeking candidates who express admiration for their ability to create jobs and keep the nation’s economy afloat. But when these hard-working entrepreneurs become the center of attention for federal bureaucrats, it’s time to start worrying.

While many view the small business sector as vital to America’s recovery, those now running the National Labor Relations Board apparently see small firms as easy targets to help revive the membership ranks of rapidly shrinking labor unions.

The NLRB recently sidestepped Congress to issue a legal dictum demanding that most small employers prominently display posters that are essentially “how to” manuals for organizing labor unions. The poster idea was advocated by labor interests and designed to instigate disputes — and costly lawsuits — where none existed before.

There’s just one problem with the poster rule: The NLRB lacks the power to require businesses to do anything except what Congress has authorized. It’s a basic constitutional principle. And Congress never gave NLRB the power to mandate the poster rule.

President Barack Obama’s hand-picked chairman of the agency, a former labor union lawyer, doesn’t seem greatly concerned with constitutional principles. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Business has challenged the NLRB poster rule. The case is on appeal in Washington, D.C.

This poster rule is an arrogant power grab by an agency the administration has virtually turned over to the bosses of big labor. The NFIB’s case argues that NLRB officials may enforce and administer Congressionally enacted labor laws, but they have no authority to make laws as they wish. Only Congress can make laws, period.

The NLRB is functioning as a rogue government agency, using taxpayer dollars to inspire labor unrest in small firms. The required posters, the agency hopes, will serve as official government advertisements to encourage employees to organize and engage in collective bargaining.

The renegade bureaucracy has turned a blind eye to the potential damage that such government-sponsored action could inflict on an already discouraged key sector of the nation’s economy. Uncertainty over economic conditions and wayward government policy are among the most severe problems facing Main Street owners today, hindering hiring and stalling any possible economic recovery.

Research by small business economists draws an unmistakable line between the uncertainty of consumers and the owners of small firms, proving that as long as there’s doubt and dismay, economic growth will be slow at best. As one economist noted, when Main Street is uncertain about the future, it freezes.

It doesn’t take a weather expert to confirm the American free enterprise system is in danger of freezing these days. It has been chilled by years of misguided federal policy, bureaucratic overreach and constant uncertainty.

Small business owners throughout America’s history have contributed immeasurably to the nation’s growth and stability. They deserve honor and respect, not unconstitutional sneak attacks by bureaucrats who refuse to be guided by the basic tenets of our democracy. If the appeals court fails to agree, surely the Supreme Court will.