Does midnight mark the very last moment of the day, or the very first moment of the next day?
For its part, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says it's ambiguous: " . . . if a date/time is referred to as 'at midnight on Friday, October 20th,' the intention could be either midnight the beginning of the day or midnight at the end of the day."
NIST's scientists don't exactly tolerate imprecise timekeeping — they synchronize the nation's clocks so that each second lasts as long as 9,193,631,770 vibrations of a cesium atom — yet they're ambivalent about whether a day begins exactly on midnight or the instant after.
In ordinary, nonscientific conversation, most people just assume "midnight on Friday" means Friday night.
But National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) bureaucrats are neither scientists nor ordinary people. They answer the "midnight" question by asking, "Which definition benefits the interest group I favor?"
Among most NLRB insiders, it can be argued that it's clear, union bosses are the favored group. And so it came to pass that an NLRB official ruled that "Midnight, May 8th" unambiguously, without a doubt, meant the minute after 11:59 p.m. on May 7.
Why was an NLRB official more confident than NIST's nuclear engineers that she knew midnight's precise meaning, even when her definition defied the word's ordinary usage?
It's simple; if she had ruled differently, 320 Detroit healthcare workers would have gotten the opportunity to boot union bosses from their hospital.
The NLRB's job is to enforce the rules outlined in federal labor law and oversee the union removal process. Unfortunately, the NLRB has wide authority to establish its own rules and precedents. That's a problem in an agency that seems to be filled with partisans who have an ideological bent towards forced unionism.
The NLRB's "contract bar" rule only lets workers file for an election to remove an unwanted union when the union's contract is between 30 and 60 days of expiring.
Complicating things further, healthcare workers are subject to a different "contract bar" and can only petition to remove a union 90 to 120 days before contract expiration.
In the "midnight" NLRB case, employees at Detroit's Sinai-Grace Hospital had a narrow window near the close of a three-year union contract to petition for union decertification.
The petitioner, Crystal Harper, had to gather signatures from nearly 100 of her colleagues, a difficult task for a full-time hospital employee.
Then the paperwork begins.
To submit the petition, Harper had to complete the 50 tiny boxes on NLRB form 502RD. She then had to send form 502RD to union officials and her employer, along with "Statement of Position" and "Description of Procedures" documents.
Next, she had to e-file a "certificate of service" proving the documents were sent, and mail the original petition to the appropriate NLRB Regional Office.
Does the NLRB not want to make it easy to remove a union?
Workers complete mountains of paperwork and file it within a tiny window, only to have NLRB staffers use every available excuse not to schedule a decertification vote.
Harper scrambled to collect signatures, believing that because the union's contract expired "midnight of the Eighth (8th) day of May 2022," she had until Feb. 8 to file. But her Feb. 8 petition was denied after union lawyers argued that "midnight" clearly meant the moment after Feb. 7ended.
That certainly defies how I would use the term "midnight," but even if it's possible the meaning is different, the NLRB should have given workers the benefit of the doubt given the ambiguity created by the poorly worded contract.
The NLRB is supposed to ensure that workers can choose their workplace representation.
However, seemingly in practice, it uses its authority to protect the forced unionism powers of union bosses.
While the right to vote out a union is written explicitly in the National Labor Relations Act, the "contract bar" is not. It is an invention of a biased board that desires to promote unions.
If the Sinai-Grace Hospital employees' petition for a decertification election remains blocked, they'll be forced to remain under the control of an unwanted union for at least another three years. That's a good outcome for union bosses eager to retain power, but rank-and-file workers — whose rights the NLRB is supposed to protect — deserve better.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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