12.14.2011 0

Momentum grows for systemic reform of National Labor Relations Board

By Rick Manning — Momentum is growing in the U.S. House of Representatives for legislation that would fundamentally reform the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), reining in power that has grown since it came into being in 1935.

The NLRB has spent the past three years under increasing fire for one-sided legal rulings and prosecutions that have dramatically expanded the scope of the agency’s power. The NLRB’s actions have been so extreme as to earn the ire of South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham who has called for an investigation into NLRB and organized labor collaboration.

The case that received the most national publicity involved the Boeing Corporation’s plan to open a manufacturing plant in South Carolina, and the NLRB’s decision to challenge the corporation’s ability to choose where it can manufacture goods in the United States. After more than a year of legal wrangling, Boeing finally declared that it was tired of spending money on lawyers and announced that it was entering into an agreement to open up another manufacturing facility in Washington State and would be using the federal government-favored International Association of Machinists Union members to build the planes.

While the South Carolina plant remains open and employing approximately 1,000 people, one cannot help but wonder if the NLRB suit resulted in the long-term commitment to the union and Washington State, which does not allow workers the freedom to opt out of joining a union.

But the NLRB’s legislative troubles extend far beyond the Boeing case which garnered most of the public attention. In the past couple of years, the NLRB has also rewritten a number of labor laws to the delight of organized labor.

These new rulings include:

• Preventing employees from overturning a unionization decision until in many cases, four years have passed,
• Requiring that pro-unionization posters be put up in non-union employers,
• Suing states to overturn state constitutional amendments passed by the voters of that state to protect worker rights to secret ballot union elections, and
• They are in the process of allowing union elections to occur within ten days of filing for election in order to give the union the best chance of succeeding.

Stepping into the breach of the Obama appointed NLRB majority’s legal activism is U.S. Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) who has introduced legislation that would strip the agency of the very adjudicatory powers that the current Board has so aggressively abused.

While maintaining the NLRB’s control over union organizing elections, Austin Scott’s H.R. 2978 would limit the power of the politically appointed board to only an advisory level on employment law issues, allowing disputes between organized labor and employers to go directly to the federal court system.

Surprisingly, it was organized labor itself that spent the eight years of the George W. Bush Administration complaining about the politically unfair employment law emanating from the NLRB, which may have set the stage for the Austin Scott reform.

In a survey on behalf of Americans for Limited Government, the polling company inc., found that 63 percent of registered voters think it is a bad idea that the NLRB plays investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury over employment law decisions. Stunningly, only 37 percent of private union members thought it was a “good idea” for the NLRB to have these powers.

This overwhelming national sentiment for limiting the power of this rogue agency is now being translated into action in the House of Representatives with the Scott bill garnering 45 co-sponsors to date, most from the historic House freshman class.

It is anticipated that the number of supporters will continue to accelerate as word of the NLRB General Counsel’s statement threatening to use Boeing-like lawsuits against other employers who dare to attempt to expand their U.S. employment by building facilities in states that allow workers to choose whether to join a union or not.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans Limited Government.

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