House bill slashes $74 million from NLRB, shackling board

WASHINGTON – Adding to their campaign against the National Labor Relations Board – and worker rights – the ruling Republicans on the House subcommittee that helps dole out federal funds slashed $74 million from the board’s budget for the year starting Oct. 1.

But even more important than cutting its spending from $274 million this fiscal year to $200 million in fiscal 2016 – President Obama wanted $278 million – is that the lawmakers attached several “riders” banning the board from acting in various areas.

The NLRB did not comment on the House GOP’s proposal.  Obama also proposed adding 30 more employees to the board’s current 1,810.  A $74 million cut would prevent that.

But even worse for the board – and for workers whose rights it is supposed to enforce in refereeing disputes with bosses – are “administrative provisions” the GOP draft inserts.

One such “rider” would ban the board from using any money to institute its new rule to consolidate the endless litigation and other tactics employers and their union-busters employ to delay or deny union recognition elections – everything from challenging the size and composition of the bargaining unit to challenging ballots and leafleting.

A second GOP “rider” would ban the board from spending money on deciding whether franchisors – think McDonald’s headquarters – are “joint employers” with local franchises – your local McDonald’s – in terms of wages, working conditions and workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The board’s general counsel, recognizing the huge growth of franchising since the act was enacted in 1935, is using complaints against McDonald’s as a test case on whether and how to hold corporate headquarters of franchise firms jointly responsible for the low pay and impossible working conditions in the local franchise outlets.  The board’s general counsel notes that franchisors control almost all aspects of local operations.

A third “rider,” a pet project of Labor Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., would ban NLRB from governing worker-boss relations in commercial enterprises, notably casinos, owned by Native American tribes.  The right wing GOP majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on that issue the week before.  Tribal representatives argued they are, in effect, independent nations and thus not under the NLRB.

Gary Navarro, a slot machine worker at the Pomo tribe’s casino in Santa Rosa, Calif., retorted he became active in organizing there for Unite Here Local 26 “because of unjust treatment of casino workers by their managers and how nothing could be done about even sexual harassment because of sovereignty. Exercising our right to organize turned out to be the only way to protect ourselves and our co-workers. Don’t strip us of these rights.

“I am opposed to the idea that in the name of my heritage, some of the most important rights Americans have would be taken away from the thousands of people who work in Native (American) businesses,” Navarro said.

Photo: If the Republican bill became law, organizing a union, which these workers at El Super in California are trying to do, will become even more difficult.  |  Rossana Cambron/PW


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.