Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A skirmish against the NLRB in the War on Workers

The NLRB's reform of organizing elections that took effect on April 30 has been attacked by Wall Street billionaires, corporate CEOs and their political puppets for months. Yesterday the union-busters got their way -- for now. According to the Associated Press,

A federal judge on Monday struck down new regulations governing union elections, saying the National Labor Relations Board did not follow proper voting procedures when it approved the rules last year. 
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said the board never had a quorum when it voted on the rules that speed up the pace of union representation elections. He did not address the merits of the rules and said the NLRB could simply take a new vote to approve them.
Just as a reminder, the new rules streamline the election process and prevent expensive legal wrangles. It isn't clear what happens next. The NLRB says it's reviewing its options.

Here's what Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said:

This decision is deeply troubling – it condones and encourages the kind of political gamesmanship at the NLRB that has undermined the rights of all American workers.  Member Hayes’s failure to cast a vote on the final rule was perhaps a neglect of his duties, but did not undermine the legitimacy of the Board’s actions.  The Board had a quorum, and they acted appropriately. 
Unfortunately, this decision has far-reaching consequences, as it seems to suggest that an individual Board member should have veto power over any NLRB decision.  That is certainly contrary to the law, and sets a dangerous precedent for future partisan efforts to undermine the Board and the workers it protects.  I am confident that when the courts reconsider this issue they will correct this error, and that the merits of the rule – which were not reached in this case, but recently upheld by a bipartisan vote of the Senate – will also be affirmed.
And here's the AFL-CIO's take on it, by way of general counsel Lynn Rhinehart:
We think the judge’s ruling is flat-out wrong.  Brian Hayes was a sitting, working, paid member of the NLRB when the rule was adopted, and remains so today.  He had made his opposition to the election rules widely known, and, in fact, two weeks ago he published his dissent on the rules.  The judge’s ruling, while in our view incorrect, is solely based on technical issues that speak to the procedure of the Board and not the rule itself.  The rules are much needed to update and streamline the election process, and we hope this procedural roadblock does not unduly delay their implementation.