The National Labor Relations Board — which is the federal agency in charge of enforcing the nation’s labor laws — has proposed a new regulation for union elections, aimed at ensuring that employers can’t needlessly delay an election while engaging in union-busting activities. Currently, according to research by John-Paul Ferguson of Stanford Business School, 35 percent of all union elections are called off due to endless delays and often illegal employer opposition.
The NLRB’s proposed regulation would speed up the election process to help workers show their true feelings toward whether or not they want to form a union. However, the one Republican member of the NLRB has threatened to resign from the board if the rule goes forward, which would not only prevent that rule from becoming law, but would cripple the NLRB entirely:
The labor board’s sole Republican member, Brian E. Hayes, has threatened to resign to deny the N.L.R.B. the three-person quorum it needs to make any decisions, according to board officials. Mr. Hayes has made his threat expressly to block the Democratic-dominated board from adopting new rules to speed up unionization elections, which the board’s other current members, both Democrats, intend to pass Nov. 30.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the NLRB needs three members (out of a possible five) to legally operate. Hayes’ resignation would bring the board down to two members, preventing it from making any decisions. The U.S. already has the weakest labor protections in the developed world, and leaving the NLRB toothless will only make the situation worse.
But this is just the latest episode in a wider GOP attempt to cripple the NLRB (though the first involving a member of the board itself). Republicans have moved several pieces of legislation that would cut the board’s funding and limit its ability to make rules. The GOP also refuses to confirm Obama’s nominees to the board, which is what has left it so shorthanded in the first place.
“Given its recent activity, inoperable is progress,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said of the NLRB. And now it seems that the Republican member of the board is planning to be complicit with the congressional GOP’s goal.