It has been a busy year for Republican attacks on workers’ rights. Last spring, Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio passed sweeping measures eliminating public sector unions, despite massive protests. More recently, Republicans have been attacking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for enforcing measures that protect workers against corporate retribution.
On Thursday, House Republicans, led by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), released their draft 2012 budget for labor, health, and education programs. In it, they proposed cutting funding for the NLRB by $49 million — a full 17 percent of the agency’s budget — and blocking regulations designed to make it easier for workers to exercise their collective bargaining rights. As Politico reported:
On the regulation front, the National Labor Relations Board, a favorite Republican target, would see its budget cut by $49 million — a 17 percent reduction — and the bill also adds multiple funding restrictions to block rulemaking related to union elections and organizing activities. [...]
The release of the draft Thursday — during a religious holiday in the middle of a recess — appeared calculated to be low key. Indeed, where the House Appropriations Committee intends to go next with the 150-page measure — the biggest of the annual domestic bills — is still very unclear given continued divisions in the GOP itself over the level of cuts.
The proposed cuts would likely be devastating. Similar cuts proposed in February would have forced the NLRB to furlough all employees for 55 days, leading to a major backlog in cases. In addition to the cuts, the Republicans’ draft budget includes several provisions that would make it more difficult for workers to join a union by blocking important NLRB regulations.
This is part of a broader campaign by Republicans to undermine the NLRB. Just last week, the House passed a bill that would prevent the NLRB from enforcing anti-union busting laws. During the debate on that bill, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) declared that enforcing longstanding labor law was the equivalent of the “economic death penalty.”
And many House Republicans not only want to weaken the NLRB, they want to eliminate it altogether. In February, 176 House Republicans voted for an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) which would have defunded the NLRB entirely.