The National Labor Ruination Board
Meyerson, Harold, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A band of about 1,000 demonstrators assembled by the AFL-CIO paraded past the White House one day last month in a driving rain to the headquarters of the National Labor Relations Board. The marchers asked the board, which was established 72 years ago to protect workers' right to bargain, to cease and desist.
No more rulings. And no more new members (the terms of three of the board's five members are due to expire shortly) who see their mission as destroying the right of employees to bargain with their bosses.
The outburst was prompted by the board's September work product: 61 decisions that both weakened workers' rights and ran counter to the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, which proclaims that the policy of the United States is to protect "the exercise by workers of full freedom of association (and) self-organization."
Absent such rights, the act states, the nation's economy would suffer from workers' diminished purchasing power and run greater risks of economic downturns. It's a very Keynesian act, the NLRA.
And, at the moment, it is being interpreted by Bush-appointed board members who take their cues from Brits more venerable (if more nominally fictitious) than Keynes -- the heavies in the novels of Charles Dickens, who invoke Victorian nostrums as they treat their workers like dirt.
Lest you think I misconstrue their literary and moral pedigree, consider the Bush appointees' Sept. 11 ruling in the case of 44 longtime employees whom a Florida resort illegally fired -- the illegality of the firings was not in question -- while they were on strike over Grosvenor of Orlando's failure to bargain in good faith with their union.
At issue was the amount of back pay the resort had to pay its workers. The employees had been picketing for just four days when they were canned; the picket line continued for several weeks.
Forty-three of the 44 workers found new employment within three months of being fired. In the view of Bush's commissars, however, the picketers should have abandoned their picketing as soon as they were pink-slipped -- surrendering instantly on their efforts to compel the resort to bargain, to recover their jobs and to retain their seniority and benefits.
The board denied full back pay to workers who hadn't sought employment within two weeks of being discharged because to do so, the Bush appointees wrote in unconscious homage to Dickens, "would be to reward idleness. …