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March 2013

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NLRB Protections Targeted

It should be a simple proposition. Citizens, the majority of whom are workers, pay taxes to support a National Labor Relations Board that helps ensure the majority is treated fairly in our nation's workplaces.
That was the reason that the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, creating the board charged with enforcing the legal right of workers to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers.

Seventy-eight years after the NLRA was passed, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia — all appointed by Republican presidents — have rendered a decision that could cripple the recent work of the NLRB and set a precedent for more damage in the future.

In late January, the judges ruled that President Obama's recess appointments of new members to serve on the board — made during the break between Congress's 2011 and 2012 sessions — were illegal.

Since their appointment by President Obama, the new members of the board have rendered decisions protecting workers — like covering tax liabilities in back pay awards or protecting the right to criticize one's employer in social media.

Big business interests complained to their friends in Congress that the NLRB was too "aggressive." So, Republicans, who lead the House, slickly set the table for the judges to knock down the president's appointees and leave their decisions over the past year in legal jeopardy.

At the time of the recess appointments, Congress left Washington for home without pounding the gavel for a full recess, keeping Congress only nominally in session simply to block any presidential appointments.

They succeeded in court, despite the fact that presidents — as far back as James Madison — have made recess appointments, including 23 to the NLRB since 1988.

The Obama administration is expected to appeal the D.C. Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We don't know how the Supreme Court will rule. But we do know that we value a democracy where rules are made in the interests of the majority, not a small, powerful and wealthy minority.

The slick, sinister moves of this Congress remind us that elections have consequences. As long as the U.S. House of Representatives remains under its current control, the rights of all working people are in jeopardy.


Also: Hill: Path to Recovery Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer