In the wake of a Senate failure for the president’s jobs bill, Republicans are advancing their own plans in the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday the House Education and Workforce Committee approved legislation that would nullify several decisions of the National Labor Relations Board, which GOP lawmakers have argued stifles investment and job creation. Additional pending legislation has aims ranging from an NLRB funding reduction to its complete abolition.
The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by Minnesota GOP Rep. John Kline, is one of many bills proposed to rein in what California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa described this month as a “rogue agency.” The legislation will move soon to the full House.
“The National Labor Relations Board is wreaking havoc on the nation’s workforce and it must be stopped,” Kline said Wednesday in his opening statement. “In recent months, the NLRB has taken a number of steps that move federal labor policy in a radically new direction.”
Kline’s bill would require that workers have at least 35 days to hear a wide variety of arguments before a union election is held. It would also give employers 14 days to prepare for a case before the NLRB. In August, Obama NLRB appointees shortened these processes — allowing companies just seven days to prepare for an NLRB case, and giving employees as few as ten days to prepare for a union election.
The proposal also gives employees a choice in how a union may contact them. Under current law, employers must turn over names and addresses of employees to unions during election periods. Kline’s bill gives workers the choice of listing a home address, a phone number, or an email address.
Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, has introduced a far more aggressive measure, the National Labor Relations Reorganization Act. His bill would eliminate the NLRB entirely and transfer many of its responsibilities to the Departments of Labor and Justice.
In a September 14 statement, Gowdy wrote that the NLRB has “become a sycophant for labor unions and has lost all pretense of objectivity,” adding that “the NLRB has outlived its usefulness and needs to be dissolved.”
Georgia GOP Rep. Austin Scott’s proposal is similar but less direct. The Protecting American Jobs Act would strip the NLRB of its judicial powers and return them to the federal courts, where all labor law cases were heard before the NLRB’s creation under the Wagner Act.
Scott accuses the NLRB of having a “biased and volatile nature” that is “hurting America’s ability to compete globally.” He says “unions and businesses should resolve their disputes where the rest of us do — in the federal court system.”
The issue that galvanized GOP reaction against the NLRB was the agency’s controversial case against the Boeing Corporation. The NLRB alleged that Boeing, a private aircraft manufacturer, opened a plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina in order to retaliate against unionized workers in its home state of Washington.
In response to the Boeing Case, South Carolina Republican Rep. Tim Scott sponsored the Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act, which passed the House in September by a 238–186 vote. Should the Senate approve it, an outcome that seems unlikely, the NLRB would have no authority to order an employer to move back to an area it left because of union labor issues.
Republican lawmakers have placed additional restrictions on the NLRB in the 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill, aiming to decrease the NLRB’s funding to $49 million less than 2011 budget levels.
The appropriations bill also includes riders to prohibit so-called “quickie” elections and preserve use of the secret ballots in union elections.
Trey Kovacs contributed reporting to this article