Two members of Congress are pushing for answers about the National Labor Relations Board’s plans to contract out its unionized staff’s duties reviewing public comments on the controversial joint employer rule.
“By outsourcing to
review of public
comments in the joint employer rulemaking, the
Board risks further fueling
public concerns that it is tainting the rulemaking with conflicts of
interest,” Reps. Bobby Scott and Frederica Wilson said in their March 14
Scott, chairman of the House Committee on
Education and Labor, and Wilson, chairwoman of its Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions subcommittee, said it would be “especially troubling” if the NLRB
contracts with lawyers or consultants who represent parties with a vested
interest in the decision.
A priority of the Trump administration, the rule
corporations off the hook when subcontractors or franchisees mistreat workers
, while also making it harder for those workers to
organize. It would undo an Obama-era rule protecting workers’ rights and safety
by holding parent companies accountable.
Handling public comments in rulemaking is one of
the traditional duties of NLRB employees, who were blindsided by the unilateral
decision to take it away.
“All we have heard from our leadership for more than a year
is that because of a budget crisis they have to cut employee compensation and
downsize the agency,” said Karen Cook, president of the NLRB Professional
in a Bloomberg story
. “So it was particularly
galling to find out that Chairman Ring is making plans to spend the agency’s
limited funds to hire contractors.”
In a March 22 response to Scott and Wilson, Ring denied the scope of the outsourcing, saying it will be done on a “limited, short-term basis” during the sorting and coding period of comment review.
lawyer, Ring was appointed NLRB chairman
day after the U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed him as a board member last year.
Ring’s tenure and the White House’s anti-worker
agenda “have combined to make the NLRB increasingly hostile to unions and
workers’ rights,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said.
“We’re seeing this across federal departments
and agencies that have roles in ensuring that employees are treated fairly and
that they are safe at work,” he said. “It’s that much more disturbing when the
board created to uphold the National Labor Relations Act is violating its own
Scott and Wilson raised both ethical and cost
issues in their letter, which requests a detailed list of information and
documents from the board.
They pointed out that the NLRB hasn’t finished an internal
and recusal procedures, issues raised by
Senators Kristen Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in a
2018 letter to Ring
charging that his “public
statements indicate that you have prejudged” the joint-employer standard.
The latest letter cautions the board to spend
its tight budget wisely and let its own “seasoned professionals” do their jobs.
“We are concerned that this contract is not the
best use of the Board’s resources when it already has the most qualified staff
prepared to conduct this task,” Scott and Wilson said.