Obama’s Labor chief decries conservative proposal to cripple NLRB

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Obama administration Labor Secretary Hilda Solis denounced a plan some conservatives have proposed that would immediately cripple the National Labor Relations Board.

At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Solis decried conservatives who are calling on the sole Republican NLRB member, Brian Hayes, to resign. If Hayes resigned now, the board would lose its quorum and wouldn’t be legally allowed to act, including on its case against The Boeing Company and its pro-union “quickie elections” rule proposals.

“I think the American public is pretty upset right now at the Congress because of their inability to get together on the issues and really focus on jobs,” Solis said in response to a question about the idea of a Hayes resignation. “I think using those tactics is something the public does not want to see. So I would strongly urge people to stick to their jobs, to do what they know best.”

The suggestion for Hayes to step down popped up in conservative circles after outgoing NLRB chairwoman Wilma Liebman, a Democrat, ended her term last weekend. The Hayes resignation proposal is ironic but strategic, as it would halt the Board until either the Senate confirmed another presidential NLRB nominee or President Obama recess-appointed another.

In a letter to Hayes, the conservative LaborUnionReport.com argues it would be patriotic for the Republican to step down from his NLRB post now. “Only you, at this moment in time, have the ability to stop this,” the conservative advocacy group wrote to Hayes. “Hopefully, your resignation will help incapacitate the NLRB until after the 2012 elections, when the American people will have the ability to democratically decide the role our government should be playing in propping up labor union bosses.”

Per a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, the NLRB is required to have a three-member quorum before it can act on anything.

The Board is expected to face a similar fate at the end of the year as recess-appointed Democratic NLRB member Craig Becker’s term runs out. Labor policy specialists are worried that Becker and the Board’s new chairman, Democrat Mark Gaston Pearce, will rush through several pro-union regulations and rulings in the remaining months of this year.

On Tuesday, for instance, the NLRB issued three controversial rulings that drew high levels of criticism from Republicans and the business community.

An immediate Hayes resignation would stop more regulations and rulings from coming through the NLRB quickly.

Another path Senate Republicans could take to gain NLRB leverage is to cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Becker’s nomination. They could agree to approve Becker for a full term, instead of the recess appointment he’s in now, if Reid were to lift his opposition to Obama’s nomination of a second Republican NLRB member. Obama nominated Republican Terence Flynn to serve as an NLRB member in January, but Reid has blocked his confirmation.

Reporter Neil Munro contributed reporting for this story.

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