Anti-Labor Republicans Hit New Low


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

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs
Jon Hochschartner
Does Word Policing Actually Help the Left?