Panel OKs bill overturning Kentucky River/NLRB decisions

WASHINGTON (PAI)--By a 26-20 party-line vote 11 months after the rulings were issued, the Democratic-run House Education and Labor Committee voted Sept. 19 to overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s “workers are supervisors” decisions.

If approved by Congress and signed by anti-worker GOP President George W. Bush—an unlikely prospect—the legislation would bar companies from arbitrarily declaring 8 million-34 million workers are “supervisors,” unprotected by labor law and open to harassment, firing, arbitrary management decisions and even forced participation in anti-union campaigns.

The Bush-named GOP majority on the NLRB, in what are called the Kentucky River decisions, named for the nursing home that first claimed its nurses are supervisors, said nurses could be supervisors if they undertook supervisory duties as little as 10 percent-15 percent of the time.

And any one of 12 duties, including hiring, firing, evaluation, ordering a lower-ranking staffer to do something, and so on, could make a worker a supervisor.

But Kentucky River didn’t cover just nurses. Analysis of federal occupational data by the Economic Policy Institute showed 8 million workers could be arbitrarily declared “supervisors.” The highest percentage of “supervisors” would be among physicians’ assistants. But other professions—construction workers, newspaper reporters, kindergarten teachers and various aides—could be “supervisors,” too.

And the dissenting Democrats on the NLRB said the Kentucky River rulings could make up to 34 million workers supervisors.

The legislation, HR 1644 by Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) says any worker who “assigns” another worker to do something for short periods of time—such as charge nurses assigning aides or construction workers teaching apprentices—or “has a responsibility to direct” another worker is not a supervisor. HR 1644 also says a person has to be a supervisor a majority of his or her working time to be considered a supervisor, unprotected by labor law.

Andrews said his bill “will overturn the misguided decision of the NLRB in the Kentucky River trilogy and restore the law back to Congress’ original intent. The affirmative vote of all of my Democratic colleagues will protect the right to organize and collectively bargain for millions of American workers.”

Right Wing Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), the panel’s top Republican, called the legislation “a transparent attempt by Big Labor to increase the ranks of dues-paying union members.”