Attacks on NLRB are attacks on working families


"Like so many federal programs," said South Carolina's Republican/tea party Sen. Jim DeMint this week, "the National Labor Relations Board has expanded its mission far beyond its original purpose in order to wage ideological battles on the taxpayers' dime."

Tim Pawlenty, a GOP White House contender, blasted the NLRB two days earlier for its suit against Boeing for that company's decision to open a non-union airline plant in South Carolina in retaliation against its union workers in Washington state.

"The NLRB decision and what they are saying to an American company as to where and how they can do business is outrageous. This is not the Soviet Union circa 1970s or 1960s or '50s," Pawlenty said.

Why have Republicans and tea partiers gotten so riled up about the NLRB?

The answer, quite simply, is that for the first time in many years the NLRB is doing what it was supposed to do ever since it was created under the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s. It is actually, as a result of decisions made by the Obama administration in accordance with U.S. labor law, trying to ensure that a workable national labor relations process is in place.

The recent uproar over the NLRB's complaint against Boeing has nothing to do with democracy  or the economy and everything to do with removal of workers' rights.

Boeing itself repeatedly said, before opening a production line in South Carolina, that it was getting even with Washington state workers for going on strike. The company admitted it was retaliating against the workers for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This left the NLRB no choice but to sue Boeing for violation of the law.

On Jan. 14 of this year the NLRB struck a key blow for working families in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah by advising the attorneys general in those states that so-called secret ballot amendments are pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act, which offers workers two paths to choosing a union - majority sign-up (often called card-check) or secret ballot election.

That NLRB action sent the message that state-enacted requirements for elections really serve to restrict workers' right to determine how they choose a union. The NLRB official advisories, by reaffirming actual federal labor law, make it clear that the proposed state amendments are falsely using the language of worker protection to cloak efforts to take away a worker's right.

The Jan. 14 decision by the NLRB is an obstacle to corporations determined to continue their exploitation of workers without having to worry about those workers forming a union. It goes a long way to discouraging future attempts by corporations to limit unionization and collective bargaining.

The attacks on the NLRB are not about protecting the right to do business in one's place of choice. They are not about protecting the country from federal regulators who don't understand the economy. They are not about trying to get a federal regulatory body back on track to its original mandate. They are not about protecting states' rights. What they are about is trying to dismantle an agency so that it will be easier to intensify attacks on working people and their rights.

The Republicans on the warpath against the NLRB would far better serve their constituents and all Americans if they stopped their attacks on an agency that is doing its job, and focused instead on what they were elected to do: creating good jobs and rebuilding the economy.

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • Boeing is relocating to the South because of its poor labor standards. It has been a long standing practice for corporations to build extra manufacturing capacity in disparate locations so that a plant can be shut down for extended periods of time to quell any labor disputes. The costs in building extra capacity is compensated for by lowering wages.

    Posted by Anonymous, 06/21/2011 11:11am (5 years ago)

  • I respect your concerns about federal overreaching. I'm sure no one would like to have to use limited resources to mediate employment disputes, but if employers are going to deny workers the rights that are guaranteed to them under a statutory framework that the government is supposed to administer, there is no real alternative. Without that framework, there would be every incentive for corporations to undermine workers' rights and expectations even more than they already do with laws in place preventing such action. Because it is net-beneficial for each corporation to pay its workers less or lower workplace standards because it saves money, it's hard to argue that the majority of businesses would willingly do otherwise out of ethical concern or respect.

    Posted by Amanda, 06/21/2011 9:25am (5 years ago)

  • I'm still not understanding the connection you are trying to draw between workers' rights and the republicans' support of Boeing. How exactly are workers' rights being removed by Boeing building a plant in South Carolina? Would Boeing still be removing workers' rights if it built the plant in Brazil? That logic isn't connecting for me.

    In my opinion, this is a devastating overreach of the federal government into the affairs of private companies, employee unions, and individual states. The Federal government should have no more power to tell a company where it can and can't establish plants than it does power to tell people where they have to live. I find no fault in Boeing pursuit of its own interests. I also find no fault with private employee unions pursuing their own interests. What I take issue with is the government tinkering in these affairs.

    Posted by Daniel, 06/15/2011 10:53pm (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments