The NLRB's Anti-Jobs Plan; Labor Board Forces Rules on Employers That Wouldn't Pass Congress

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

The NLRB's Anti-Jobs Plan; Labor Board Forces Rules on Employers That Wouldn't Pass Congress


Byline: Jay Timmons, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A few unelected officials in downtown Washington are rapidly accomplishing what 535 men and women in

Congress refused to do.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has launched an aggressive agenda and is well on its way to achieving the goals of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a wide-ranging bill that would have reshaped the labor system in the United States.

Although the EFCA was a priority of organized labor, it never won the approval of Congress - even when one party controlled the House, Senate and White House. But who needs Congress when an ideological agency is at the ready?

The NLRB has long been a lightning rod. It's true the agency is independent. The board members don't have to answer to the president. But the president puts them there, and they clearly can bring an agenda with them. With gridlock in Congress, the board can fill the breach left by the legislature and make policy that could never survive the democratic process.

Manufacturers got a sense of the current board when President Obama set off a nomination fight by naming Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lawyer Craig Becker to the board. Mr. Becker's history of partiality derailed his confirmation chances. Prior to his nomination, he had advocated restrictions on employers' rights, such as limits on their speech and ability to communicate with employees during representation campaigns, leading Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, to describe him as the most radical nominee to the NLRB in my experience in the Senate. Mr. Becker couldn't clear the Senate, but the president put him on the board through a recess appointment.

Including Mr. Becker, the NLRB is down to just three members - two Democrats, both appointed by President Obama, and one Republican. At full strength, the board comprises five members, three of the president's party and two of the other party.

Mr. Becker's recess appointment runs out at the end of the year, so the board could be reduced to just two members. That may explain all the recent action at the NLRB - the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the board cannot render decisions if there are just two members.

So what has the board been doing? The short answer is that it's putting jobs at risk by introducing uncertainty for job creators and potentially imposing new costs on employers. The more employers have to spend figuring out the new rules and complying with them, the less they can use to invest in their firms and hire new workers.

The NLRB is pushing the limits of its regulatory authority to upend our time-tested labor system. It recently finalized a 194-page rule to require employers to put up posters informing employees they have the right to organize. …

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