Anti-Labor Republicans Hit New Low

by DAVID MACARAY

For 76 years it’s been the job of the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) to enforce the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (passed in 1935 and better known as the Wagner Act).  The National Labor Relations Act is the legislation that governs such things as union elections and collective bargaining.

While there have been the usual ideological squabbles over the years, the NLRB has managed to take its cow to market under the Republican administrations of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  There were disputes, but most were settled by compromise.  It wasn’t until George W. Bush became president that things got ugly.  And now, under Barack Obama, they’ve gotten way uglier.

Appointed by the president, the NLRB panel is required to have five members.  Traditionally, the panel tends to break along party lines, often with a 3-2 split in favor of the White House.  However, in the absence of all five members, the Board can still conduct business so long as it has a quorum, which is a minimum three members.  But in the absence of a quorum the Board can’t act.  It can’t interpret any language, pass down any rulings, can’t come to the aid of workers illegally discharged for union activism, can’t insist that employees be awarded back pay for overtime hours they were cheated out of, can’t settle a ULP (unfair labor practice charge) filed during contract negotiations.  Without a minimum of three members, it can’t do anything.

As it stands today the NLRB consists of three members, Mark Pearce and Craig Becker, both Democrats, and Brian E. Hayes, a Republican.  The reason there are only three members is because the Republicans in Congress have steadfastly refused to install anyone who remotely resembles a pro-union vote, consigning the Board to limp along on the bare minimum.  In fact, Becker himself is a “recess appointee” (appointed by Obama while Congress was not in session), which means his term expires at the end of the year.

Given how virulently hostile pro-corporate Republicans are toward regular working people, and how contemptuous they are of the 76-year old federal institution that was created specifically to guarantee those people’s rights, here’s the question:  What will they do in response to that 2-1 Democratic majority on the NLRB?  Answer: Brian E. Hayes, the lone Republican, has threatened to resign, leaving the Board without a quorum and without the power to act.

How outrageous is such a move?  Charles Craver, a George Washington University law professor, is quoted as saying that it is “as bad as it’s been in terms of partisanship in the 40 years I’ve been in the labor field.”  And this is William B. Gould IV, Clinton’s former NLRB chairman (who himself was criticized by organized labor for being too weak), weighing in on the Hayes’s threat:  “I have never heard of anything like that happening,” he said. “It’s unprecedented.”

This blatant obstructionism reminds us of the grade school kid who threatened to take his football and go home unless he was allowed to be quarterback.  Because Americans hate kids like that, it would be wonderful if President Obama, utilizing the bully pulpit, went on TV and exposed the Republicans for the sniveling cowards they are.  Alas, our president doesn’t have that much fight in him.

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached atdmacaray@earthlink.net

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman