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Eye on the NLRB
Obama Appoints Becker and Pearce to the NLRB

This weekend brought big news: President Obama used his Constitutional appointment powers to fill two slots on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that have been vacant since 2007. Craig Becker and Mark Pearce will be added to the five-member board, which administrates disputes between labor and management.

American Rights at Work applauds these appointments as an effective first step toward improving conditions for America’s workers. Said Executive Director Kimberly Freeman Brown in a statement:

"When jobs are scarce, workers are often forced to endure unfair working conditions. America’s workers need a fully functioning NLRB to medite their claims for better wages, benefits and other rights now more than ever – and after two long years they have one."

A group of 46 of the country’s leading labor law scholars are similarly pleased at the prospect of a functioning NLRB. They signed a letter to President Obama, thanking him for his action on this issue. "These new Board Members will bring their wealth of experience as legal scholars and labor law practitioners to serve with fairness and integrity," the letter states, "We again extend our appreciation to you for making the recess appointments that will allow the Board to tackle this work.

The scholars’ letter also reminds us that recess appointments are hardly uncommon or unprecedented. George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments during his eight years in office — Ronald Reagan made 243.

 
No More Limbo for Workers’ Rights
The NLRB needs five members to be a full, functioning board. But since December 2007, the NLRB has only had two members, and over the last 14 months, obstructionist U.S. senators have held up President Obama’s slate of nominees.

In today’s Roll Call, American Rights at Work’s Kimberly Freeman Brown lays out what’s at stake:
With President Barack Obama’s nominees defeated, America’s workers continue to pay the cost. The board will continue to hobble along as it has for the past two years. Stuck with just two members, every critical case at the national level is frozen…This means that millions of workers who saw their right to form a union revoked by the Bush board — like the nurses and professionals wrongly labeled as supervisors — must continue to work without job security and a voice to improve their working conditions.
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The NLRB: Policing Repeat Offenders with a Water Pistol

As a mother I’ve learned that regardless of his repeated assurances, my toddler will only stop harassing his little brother when there are real consequences to his misbehavior (i.e., no more train video). Yet when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Consolidated Biscuit with illegally harassing its union supporters–despite the company’s pledge to stop in two previous settlements—the agency didn’t provide any real consequences.

Rather than pursuing an injunction and contempt-of-court charges against the company to prevent further violations, they decided to negotiate yet another settlement. This milquetoast response to a habitual unionbuster illustrates why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, which would increase penalties for unlawful employers, and require the use of injunctions to curb employers’ bad behavior when there’s reasonable cause to believe that someone’s rights have been violated.

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NLRB In Legal Limbo, Swift Action by Senate Needed

Two contradicting court decisions issued last week leave the National Labor Relations Board in legal limbo.  For the past 16 months, Wilma Liebman and Peter Schaumber have jointly issued 400 decisions, preventing a major backlog of cases while the Board was down by three members.  Yet the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington just held that it was invalid for them to issue two-member decisions, while a federal appellate court in Chicago upheld the validity of their decisions.  It will likely take a Supreme Court decision to clear up the legal matter.

It is all the more imperative now that the Senate swiftly confirm President Obama’s nominees for two vacant Board seats. If the Board is forced to re-examine all of those cases when another member is appointed, it must do so quickly in order to minimize the damage done to workers.  Behind each of those cases are real people who are waiting for their union to be recognized, waiting for their employer to come to the bargaining table, and waiting to collect backpay for a wrongful termination.

 
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