WASHINGTON – Over labor and Democratic opposition, the GOP-run House has narrowly approved legislation (HR1120) to try to shut down the National Labor Relations Board.
But the measure, passed 219-209 on the afternoon of April 12, has virtually no chance in the Democratic-run Senate and President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget has already declared it would recommend he veto it.
The GOP used the measure, House Democrats said during the hour-long debate, to advance their anti-labor, anti-union agenda. Democratic floor manager Rob Andrews, D-N.J., noted at one point that since the GOP seized control of the House in 2011, it has passed 40 anti-labor measures.
HR1120 would kill some 600 NLRB decisions on a wide range of labor-management disputes handed down starting in Jan. 2012, and would prevent further board rulings until it has a legal, Senate-approved quorum of at least three members.
Left unsaid by the measure’s sponsors in the House GOP: Senate GOP filibusters killed Obama’s NLRB nominees, forcing him into “recess appointments” of two members that January, when the Senate was out of session. But three GOP-named judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said the recess appointees are illegal, and thus the board’s rulings are, too.
“In effect, HR1120 would shut down the NLRB indefinitely and deprive both labor and management of the ability to have their rights adjudicated when a violation of the National Labor Relations Act is alleged,” AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel wrote lawmakers before the voting, urging them to defeat the measure.
“While the NLRB enforces the rights of workers to form unions and bargain collectively, it also protects businesses and the public by providing orderly procedures to prevent the disruption of commerce by either side in a labor dispute.
“While there is no question the recent” D.C. appeals court “decision…has thrown our system of labor law enforcement into disarray, Congress should not interfere with the functioning of the board while cases involving the president’s recess appointment authority make their way through the federal court system,” Samuel added.
House Democrats made those same points during the debate. They also said lawmakers should stop taking such “show votes” and work on legislation to really help people get back to work, at decent wages and with labor law enforcement available.
“There really are two different points of view on collective bargaining,” Andrews said. “One is that it’s a nuisance. The other is that it’s an engine of economic growth.
“There are those who believe the proper organization of our economy is that the bosses decide what happens, everyone else salutes, and that’s what happens. This led us to situations where we had children working in sweatshops, people working 80 or 90 or 100 hours a week, and people being forced out and fired for all sorts of invalid and irrational reasons.
“In our country’s history, we’re fortunate that there was a great movement of collective bargaining among the working people of this country. In the 1930s, those who preceded us here enshrined the rights of collective bargaining in various statutes. Since then, for nearly 90 years these statutes have worked to promote fairness, equity, and economic growth in our country.
“Collective bargaining works, not just for those in a union, but for all those in the United States of America. This bill is a direct assault on collective bargaining,” Andrews added. “Collective bargaining is one of the main engines of the development of America’s middle class…A vote against this bill is an affirmation of the value of collective bargaining. A vote for this bill is an erosion of that precious right Americans have always enjoyed and should enjoy.”
“Make no mistake: The real goal of this legislation is to attack workers’ rights,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., a former union counsel. “This will make it harder for workers and employers to settle disputes. It will essentially end the board’s ability to hear cases until the Senate confirms the President’s NLRB nominees. And we all know that that deliberative body is often better at obstruction than getting the people’s business done.
“Instead of trying to shut down the NLRB, shouldn’t my colleagues on the other side be calling on the Senate to have an up-or-down vote on the president’s nominees? Allow me to separate fact from fiction. This bill is not about certainty. This bill is about making it harder for working people to have their voices and their cases heard.”
“HR1120 would roll back the clock three-quarters of a century, to days of brutality and humiliation, the days before the Wagner Act, the days in which workers and their families suffered indignities, strife, even bloodshed,” added Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.
Ten Republicans defied the party line and joined 199 Democrats in voting against HR1120. No Democrats voted for it. The ten were Reps. Don Young (Alaska), Rodney Davis (Illinois), Michael Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Peter King, Thomas Reed, Chris Gibson and Michael Grimm (N.Y.), David McKinley (W. Va.) and David Joyce (Ohio).
Photo: The NLRB was put in place to guarantee that workers could exercise their right to collectively bargain. That workers’ right is now being threatened. Flickr/PW