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NLRB Undermines Workers' Rights

October 3, 2006

Kimberly Freeman
(202) 822-2127 x111

WASHINGTON, DC – In a series of cases widely viewed as among the most important the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will decide this decade, the Board ruled to undermine workers’ rights to union representation.  The Bush Board’s new definition of supervisor significantly departs from past interpretations and could have the result of depriving millions of workers the opportunity to choose to unionize because they are classified as a supervisor.  It is yet another decision by the current Board that sides with business, directly against the interests of workers, and that explicitly professes to be unconcerned with the far reaching consequences of its interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

 “This decision continues the Labor Board’s alarming trend of eroding workers’ rights in America,” says Mary Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work, a workers’ rights advocacy organization. "In the last few years, the Bush-appointed Board has utterly failed to do its job and protect workers’ rights."

In 2001, the Supreme Court rejected the Board’s method of determining supervisory status in the Kentucky River case, forcing the Board to reexamine the issue.  In three cases, Oakwood Healthcare, Golden Crest Healthcare, and Croft Metals, the Board tested the determination of who is a supervisor.  Under the new test as explained in the Oakwood decision, the assignment of routine tasks is sufficient to confer supervisory status, even if the assignment is a reflection of professional judgment and even if the employee in question has no input into the general allocation of work assignments.

Dissenting Labor Board members aptly expressed their grave concern about the ruling, stating that, “The result could come as a rude shock to nurses and other workers who for decades have been effectively protected by the NLRA, but who now may find themselves treated, for labor-law purposes, as members of management, with no right to pursue collective bargaining or engage in other concerted activity in the workplace.. ..The majority’s decision thus denies the protection of the Act to yet another group of workers, while strengthening the ability of employers to resist the unionization of other employees.”

American Rights at Work strives to inform the public about the NLRB, the federal agency that makes critical decisions affecting workers’ lives and freedoms. Through its website feature, “Workers’ Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB,” the labor policy group monitors and publicizes the insufficiency of U.S. labor law to ensure employees the freedom to exercise their legal rights to organize. With these rulings decided, workers now anticipate similar judgments in the 135 cases pending at the Board.