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Key Enforcement Tool Collects Dust at Bush NLRB
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Written by Erin Johansson   
April 25, 2006
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Key Enforcement Tool Collects Dust at Bush NLRB
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The National Labor Relations Act is an overwhelmingly toothless law —one that provides its ‘enforcers’ with meaningless penalties to assess on violators, and workers with little protection.  But the Act does offer the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with one key tool to protect workers: the 10(j) injunction, which authorizes the NLRB to intervene when there is strong evidence that an employer has committed unfair labor practices.  Unfortunately, the use of this important enforcement mechanism has dropped dramatically under the Bush NLRB, much to the benefit of lawless employers.

Injunctions are widely used throughout our society—from halting an execution while an appeal proceeds, to stopping new construction until a permit issue is resolved.  Such a tool allows for intervention in a dispute when delays in the standard legal process could cause irreparable harm.  Why, then, should workers be denied such recourse when their rights are violated? 

The 10(j) injunction allows the NLRB to seek swift and temporary relief, such as the reinstatement of a fired worker, to mitigate the damage of the employer’s actions.  The NLRB can utilize this tool when normal delays in the system render the eventual remedy ordered by an administrative law judge or the Board ineffective.  Injunctions can also serve as a deterrence, as employers may be less likely to break the law when they know it’s not a given that the remedy will occur long after the violation.

The case of Point Blank Armor illustrates the effectiveness of this tool.  In August 2002, 175 employees at Point Blank’s Florida plant went on strike to protest the company’s firing of three employees in retaliation for their union organizing effort.1 When Point Blank fired all 175 of the striking workers, the NLRB authorized a 10(j) injunction to reinstate the fired workers, and shortly thereafter, a federal judge ordered the company to comply.  The workers then returned to their jobs and continued their organizing efforts.  The following year, they gained union representation and secured a union contract—an unlikely scenario if the workers had been forced to wait for a Board decision to eventually reinstate them.

NLRB fails to utilize important enforcement mechanism

The Bush NLRB has an abysmal record of utilizing the injunction, authorizing only 70 between June 2001 and December 2005—an average of 16 per year.2  This represents a decline of 74 percent since the Clinton Administration and 61 percent since the G.H. Bush Administration.  The table below compares the use of injunctions of the past four administrations. 

Table 1. Comparison of the use of injunctions between administrations

Administration

 Reagan3

 G.H. Bush4

 Clinton5

G.W. Bush6

Average numer of injunctions authorized per year

 46

41

62

16 

 

The Bush NLRB claims to have authorized fewer injunctions than in the past because of a 16 percent decline in unfair labor practice cases between 2000 and 2005.7  But this excuse doesn’t hold water, as the Clinton NLRB still issued three times as many injunctions per total number of unfair labor practice cases received than the Bush NLRB.8

The Bush NLRB’s clear lack of enthusiasm for this vital enforcement tool is consistent with its recent litany of anti-worker rulings.  The agency charged with protecting workers’ rights is neglecting its role by letting cases proceed through the painfully slow and inadequate legal process, rendering any eventual remedies meaningless. 

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According to the National Labor Relations Act, Section 10(j) [Injunctions]: 

"The Board shall have power, upon issuance of a complaint as provided in subsection (b) [of this section] charging that any person has engaged in or is engaging in an unfair labor practice, to petition any United States district court, within any district wherein the unfair labor practice in question is alleged to have occurred or wherein such person resides or transacts business, for appropriate temporary relief or restraining order. Upon the filing of any such petition the court shall cause notice thereof to be served upon such person, and thereupon shall have jurisdiction to grant to the Board such temporary relief or restraining order as it deems just and proper."9


Citations

1. Danner, Patrick. "Firm Opposing Workers Broke the Law, Judge Says," The Miami Herald, 17 July 2003.
2. National Labor Relations Board, "End-of-Term Report on Utilization of Section 10(j) Injunction Proceedings, June 1, 2001 through December 31, 2005," Memorandum GC 06-02, Jan. 2006.
3. Data based on NLRB documents produced pursuant to a FOIA request by the AFL-CIO, Mar. 2006.  Since the number of authorizations is broken down by fiscal year, not calendar year, authorizations issued at the end of the prior administration may be included in the numbers for the administration that followed. 
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.  
6. National Labor Relations Board, "End-of-Term Report on Utilization of Section 10(j) Injunction Proceedings, June 1, 2001 through December 31, 2005."
7. Ibid. 
8. Annual Reports of the National Labor Relations Board, FY1993-2004; National Labor Relations Board, "Summary of Operations (Fiscal Year 2005)," Memorandum GC 06-01, Nov. 2005; NLRB FOIA request.
9. National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 160.


 
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