GOP Senate leaders scheme to hamstring NLRB

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Continuing the Republicans’ war on workers, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced legislation to hamstring the National Labor Relations Board by requiring super-majorities to approve anything and curbing the reach of its top enforcement officer, the General Counsel.

The legislation won’t go anywhere in the 113th Congress, as the two introduced it just before lawmakers went home to campaign. But if Republicans win Senate control, McConnell would become majority leader, and could set the legislative agenda. Alexander would chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which would consider the bill.

Thus their measure, part of their effort to cater to the radical right/tea party wing of the GOP, also is a marker of their hostility to workers and unions. McConnell faces a tough race this fall against Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergren Grimes.

The McConnell-Alexander measure would expand the NLRB from five members to six, and require an even split between the two major parties. Right now, federal labor law allows one party to name three of the five NLRB members, and three votes can pass any case. McConnell and Alexander would require four votes, out of the six, to pass anything.

The only federal regulatory agency with six members evenly split between the two parties is the Federal Elections Commission, whose enforcement has ground to a halt for at least a decade.

McConnell and Alexander would rein in the General Counsel by letting companies take any GC decision to federal district court within a month – and forcing the counsel to turn over all internal documents related to the case, too, within 10 days of filing their cases in court.

Alexander complained the NLRB takes too long for its rulings. He said the measure would let either workers or bosses “appeal to a federal Court of Appeals if the board fails to reach a decision in their case within one year. To further incentivize speedy decision-making, funding for the entire NLRB would be reduced by 20 percent if the board is not able to decide 90 percent of its cases within one year over the first two-year period post-reform.”

Both are upset by a recent General Counsel’s memo saying franchise holders and the chains that enfranchise them – such as McDonald’s and hotel chains – are joint employers that are both responsible for obeying wage and working condition laws, including labor laws.

Employing standard, but tired, GOP anti-worker and anti-union rhetoric, McConnell, blustered that the General Counsel wants “to take away independence from small businessmen and women – like decisions on who to hire, how much to pay them, and how to run their business – and put it in the hands of corporate bosses.

 “This so-called ‘joint-employer’ standard is all about politics and appeasing the Left,” he declaimed. “Big Labor bosses want it because it helps them expand and acquire more dues at the expense of small business owners.”

McConnell also charged the board wants to “prevent companies from building factories in states with laws (that) the president’s picks don’t like.” That’s a veiled reference to the former General Counsel’s suit against Boeing for moving its 787 Dreamliner production to anti-union South Carolina so that the firm could retaliate against the Machinists, who represent its Pacific Northwest workers. The case was later settled.

Photo: Chicago McDonald’s workers and supporters rally for higher wages. Earchiel Johnson/PW




Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.