10.11.2011 0

NLRB reform legislation aims at treating ‘disease,’ not just ‘symptoms’

Originally published in The Daily Caller

By Matthew Boyle — Freshman Republican Rep. Austin Scott has introduced a bill he says would “politically neutralize” the National Labor Relations Board.

Scott’s plan would remove adjudicatory power from the NLRB, but allow it to continue existing. That means the board would still oversee union elections and continue investigating labor complaints and disputes, but wouldn’t be judge, jury and executioner of labor law.

Scott told The Daily Caller that his bill addresses the core problem of the NLRB, instead of merely addressing some of the issues that have hit headlines. He adds that the bill would “reduce the cost [of labor litigation] to the taxpayers.”

“There are a couple bills out there that I think get rid of the NLRB altogether and abolish it, and there are some that deal with individual issues like Tim Scott’s bill that deals with Boeing for example,” Scott said in a phone interview. “Ours is one that keeps the NLRB in place, but they would be left to oversee union elections and if there was a complaint, they would have the ability to, you know, compile a report.”

“A company’s attorneys or a union’s attorneys would be able to admit that report in a court, but as far as who makes decisions, it removes the adjudicatory authority and so all of the decisions would actually be made in a courtroom,” he continued.

The NLRB has taken up several politically controversial cases during President Barack Obama’s administration — most prominently, the case against The Boeing Company for opening a new production line for its Dreamliner planes in South Carolina. In that case, the NLRB sided with the International Association of Machinists in Washington State, which alleges Boeing’s decision to open the new plant in South Carolina, instead of in Washington, was retaliation against the union. Boeing counters that it has added jobs in both South Carolina and Washington State.

The NLRB has also promulgated controversial new regulations, such as “quickie elections” for unions, the allowance of “micro union” organizing and requirements that employers display pro-union posters in their workplaces.

The “quickie elections” decision decreases the timeframe in which a unionization election can take place from the historical precedent of approximately 45 days after organizers request one to about seven to 10 days.

Micro unions allow labor organizers to section off company employees by specific job descriptions. For example, if a union tried to organize a restaurant staff, leaders would target servers, busboys, dishwashers, cooks and hostesses separately.

The poster requirements force employers to hang union organizing information in their workplaces for all employees to see.

Each of the controversial regulations are being challenged in various capacities. But, Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson said Scott’s legislation would ensure these kinds of decisions wouldn’t happen again. Wilson adds that it would ensure that only fair labor law decisions are made.

“We found in polling that a significant number of union members think this should be able to go straight to the courts and the reason is, is that when the board is constituted by Republicans in the past, they’ve tied up union claims that eventually had to get to the federal court,” Wilson said. “So, what I think Austin’s bill does, is it makes it fair for everybody. There’d be one set of rules and it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House or what party it is – and it puts cases where they’re eventually going to end up anyway.”

In fact, 61 percent of union members polled by ALG in a The Polling Company/WomanTrend poll say they don’t think the NLRB should have “exclusive power to officiate legal proceedings over private U.S. companies in its own court system.” Technically, Wilson said that means a majority of union members would support Scott’s legislation.

Scott thinks his bill will garner bipartisan support and should get endorsed by conservative groups and labor unions. Both sides criticize the NLRB for the same reasons and, as recently as 2007, the AFL-CIO led a march from its downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters to the NLRB calling for the board to be disbanded.

“Depending on who the president is, they [the unions like the AFL-CIO, SEIU, etc.] either support the agency or they don’t which is not the way it’s supposed to work,” Scott told TheDC. “But, I think from the standpoint of the men and women who are out there working on a day-to-day basis who actually comprise the membership of the unions, I think that they would be supportive of it.”

When TheDC asked AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein if the union supports reforming the NLRB, he didn’t answer.

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