WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 12, 2013
America’s workplaces are facing significant challenges. Consumer demand remains weak. Threats of new regulations and higher taxes continue. And a looming debt crisis threatens the growth and prosperity our nation is working so hard to attain. Washington should not be in the business of making these challenges worse. That is why we are here today.
Many Americans may not even know a federal labor board exists, let alone the role it plays in their everyday lives. Despite its obscurity, the authority of the National Labor Relations Board governs virtually every private business across the country. Our nation needs a labor board that will appropriately and responsibly administer the law, or else the rights of both workers and employers are diminished.
Unfortunately, partisan politics have left the board in a state of dysfunction. A year ago President Obama made three recess appointments to the board while Congress was not in recess. The president’s action was unprecedented and a federal appeals court has ruled it was also unconstitutional.
As a result, the work of the board is tainted. Every decision it issues is ripe for appeal on the basis the board itself is not legitimate. In fact, employers and unions are now citing the recent court ruling as a reason why board decisions should be overturned.
A story in the Wall Street Journal helps illustrate the real life consequences of the president’s recess appointment scheme. Five years ago a truck driver alleged that her union failed to follow the rules and assign her work. The NLRB agreed and ordered the union to pay the driver back wages and benefits. So far the union has refused and the current chaos offers a new opportunity to toss out the board’s decision. According to the union’s attorney, “I’ll explore every opportunity to make sure my client doesn’t have to pay anything.”
This is the reality we now face: Unions, employers, and workers are forced to spend more time and money defending themselves before the board and in federal court. Our nation has relied upon the board for more than 75 years. Never has it faced this level of confusion and uncertainty.
The current crisis began with the president’s unconstitutional power-grab and it is up to him to fix it. Just this week the president announced he was submitting three board nominees to the Senate for its approval. This is certainly welcome news and long overdue. However, it does nothing to mitigate the chaos surrounding the NLRB. Roughly 600 board decisions are constitutionally suspect and that number continues to grow.
The legislation before us today simply tells the board to stop exacerbating a problem that is already wreaking havoc across the country. H.R. 1120 prevents the board from taking action that requires a quorum until one of three events occur: the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the appointments; a board quorum is constitutionally confirmed; or the terms of the so-called appointees expire.
The bill does not – I repeat does not – stop the NLRB from overseeing union elections or processing claims of wrongdoing. The narrow scope of the bill is directed at the board and only the board.
The Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act is an appropriate congressional response to an unprecedented situation. I expect we will hear a lot of false accusations today from our friends on the other side of the aisle. But I doubt we’ll hear any denial of the serious challenges facing the board.
The question then is this: Should we do nothing or should we advance responsible legislation that will help prevent further harm? I urge my colleagues to support the bill.
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