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Battista's Revisionist History
Written by Erin Johansson   
December 13, 2007

Robert Battista came clean today.  The Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board admitted before a joint subcommittee hearing of the Senate and House that that he no longer believes that the primary purpose of the National Labor Relations Act is to promote collective bargaining

While for years I’ve written that this Board is more concerned with management rights than with the rights of workers to have a union contract, I’m surprised Battista publicly articulated that his Board gives less weight to the promotion of collective bargaining than what the NLRA’s drafters originally intended.

After several members of the subcommittees charged that the Bush Labor Board has failed to uphold this original purpose, Battista implied that the Taft-Hartley Amendment of 1947 repealed the primary goal of the NLRA, which had been to promote collective bargaining.  

Labor Board Member Wilma Liebman, who has dissented from the many anti-worker decisions by the Board, countered Battista’s “revisionist history.”  She argued that the original language still stands and that this shift away from promoting collective bargaining was a “dramatic policy decision” that no Board has previously made:  

The Board is notorious for its seesawing with every change of Administration. But something different is going on – more 'sea change' than 'see-saw.'  The current Board, it seems to me, is divorced from the National Labor Relations Act, its values, and its goals.

Reading from the NLRA’s preamble, she reinforced her point that in no way did Taft-Hartley diminish the primary purpose of the Act.

More highlights from the hearing...

Liebman also asserted that:

Virtually every recent policy choice by the Board impedes collective bargaining, creates obstacles to union representation, or favors employer interests…No wonder that there has been loss of faith in the Board.

According to Feliza Ryland, who was illegally fired from Grosvenor Resort and was among those the Labor Board punished for failing to quickly find a new job:

Requiring a worker who has been fired to look for a new job instantly, without trying to get their job back, is like surrendering without a protest, without a fight. It is like having no rights in the first place.

Jonathan Hiatt, General Counsel of the AFL-CIO noted that the Labor Board’s decisions:

are not merely a pendulum swing or a course correction at times characteristic of changes in political administrations.  Rather, they evince a calculated effort to make fundamental changes to our nation’s national labor law – changes that it is aggressively accomplishing without any Congressional action whatsoever.

Hiatt’s testimony nicely summarizes the September cases and their impact on workers.