Congressman: Dismantle the NLRB, give its duties to the Justice Dept.

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

To permanently eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy recommends transferring its responsibilities to the Department of Justice.

Congress created the NLRB to enforce the National Labor Relations Act, but many conservatives this year have expressed support for dismantling the board because of its pro-union tendencies.

“We can do with the NLRA what we do with most other federal statutes, which is let the Department of Justice enforce it,” Gowdy, who was a federal prosecutor before running for public office, told The Daily Caller. “Why do you need an NLRB?”

Gowdy said the NLRB’s litigation is going to “wind up” in the federal court system anyways, so he questions the necessity of the board.

“The United States Department of Justice has criminal prosecutors and it also has a civil division,” Gowdy said. “It’s the DOJ that gets involved in anti-trust issues, it’s the DOJ who handles issues looking into behemoth telecommunications companies. Surely to goodness, they’ve got bright lawyers at DOJ. Surely to goodness, they can enforce the provisions of the NLRA.”

To critics who question giving the Justice Department more power, Gowdy says he’d rather have career federal prosecutors enforcing labor laws than a “free, public, taxpayer-supported law firm in the NLRB.” (RELATED: SC governor calls NLRB ‘un-American’)

“[Federal prosecutors’] allegiance is solely to the truth and they’re not sycophants for labor unions,” Gowdy said. “I have confidence in career prosecutors; I worked with them. They’re necessarily and by law apolitical because of the Hatch Act and we trust them with the other major decisions that we have in our civil and criminal justice system.”

The NLRB has typically swung with political tides, being a bit more pro-business under Republican administrations and a bit more pro-union under Democratic administrations. Under the Obama administration, though, critics like Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute say it’s taken an unprecedented shift in favor of unions.

“For decades, the NRLB has struck a fair balance in its role of conducting elections and investigating questionable workplace practices,” Wszolek told TheDC. “Yet, under President Obama, this labor board has thrown all balance out the window and become an advocacy arm of Big Labor bosses.”

Wszolek said Gowdy’s call for dismantling the board reflects both inside-the-beltway and national attitudes about the NLRB.

“Rep. Gowdy is expressing the displeasure felt on Capitol Hill and across the country with an out-of-control bureaucracy that has devoted itself to developing policies outside its scope that kill jobs and force business closures in one of the worst economic environments in modern times,” Wszolek said.

In the past couple of weeks, suggestions have popped up that if the NLRB’s sole Republican member, Brian Hayes, resigned, it would quash the board’s quorum. That means a Hayes resignation would forcibly disable the NLRB, because a 2010 Supreme Court decision maintains that the NLRB must have three members to rule on anything.

For a Hayes resignation to effectively quash the board’s activity and keep the NLRB below quorum, Senate Republicans would need to stop any presidential nominees from getting through and House Speaker John Boehner would need to continue keeping the Congress from going into official recess. That would stop President Barack Obama from recess-appointing more members to fill the board and fix its quorum issue.

Gowdy says that idea isn’t a solution. “That’s a lot of ifs,” he told TheDC. “Brian’s doing a good job, why would you want him to step down to be replaced by someone who would not do a good job? I’m much more interested in a systemic fix than a gimmick.”

Before calling it “un-American,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said last week she’d support any efforts to disable the NLRB.

Gowdy said there’s a plan in place in Congress right now, but it’ll take some time to get through. He said Republicans will need to take greater control of government in the next election, because “transformative, system change” needs more than “one half of one third of government.” For now, he said House Republicans are exercising oversight powers to keep sunshine and scrutiny on the NLRB’s actions, which he says are “running wild.”

“There’s a multi-faceted approach to [shutting down the NLRB], in the short term provide oversight of the NLRB and keeping them from running wild as they are currently doing and, as far as I can tell, be the law firm of choice for Big Labor,” Gowdy said. “This is a longer-term goal, which would be to dismantle them. I don’t think it’s constructive to do it in the midst of litigation, but I think providing enough notice that we’re going to move these cases within an existing structure, namely the Department of Justice, is appropriate and I will be pursuing that with my two committee chairmen of jurisdiction, [Congressman Darrell] Issa and [Congressman Lamar] Smith.”

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