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House Democrats Blast Senate GOP Leader for Blocking NLRB Nominees

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King by DonkeyHotey via FlikrLooks to me like it was unanimous. Earlier this week, 201 House Democrats sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressing their “serious concern” about his position on nominations for the National Labor Relations Board.

Here is some of what House Democrats said:

This is nothing more than a blatant and cynical attempt to shut down the NLRB’s lawful ability to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. …The NLRB provides critical protections to American workers and gives businesses much needed labor certainty. Each day that the Board sits idle is one in which workers’ lawful rights are put at risk. This continued ideological obstructionism is denying hardworking Americans the crucial worker protections that the NLRB provides.

Read their full letter here. I looked through the signatures and didn’t see a single House Democrat missing. Do you know how hard it is to find unanimity in Washington, DC these days?

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

Federal courts have previously ruled that the NLRB needs a minimum of three members in order to have the authority to make rulings. If there are less than three members, the Board cannot issue any decisions or take any official actions.

Right now, there are only three members of the NLRB – and the term of one of those members expires on August 27th. If Senate Republicans continue to block confirmation votes on NLRB nominees, then very soon the Board will be down to only two members – and then it will have no authority to protect collective-bargaining rights.

Here’s another thing that concerns House Democrats:

Specifically, [Senator McConnell’s] office stated that the Senate will not vote on the full package of Board nominees unless current Board members Ms. Sharon Block and Mr. Richard Griffin are replaced.

Apparently, Sen. McConnell now wants to give Senate Republicans veto power over the NLRB Board members who are already in office.

And here I thought that the Republicans are the minority party in the Senate. Yet, they’re holding hostage the rights of 80 million private-sector workers around the country, by refusing to allow the Senate to vote on any replacement NLRB members.

And yeah, the Republicans are using President Obama’s “recess appointments” to spin their decision to paralyze the NLRB. But I looked back – and since 2002, only one NLRB member has joined the Board through the usual nomination-confirmation process; all the other members joined through a recess appointment process. And even before that, Presidents appointed NLRB members during Senate recesses. President Reagan appointed two members during Senate recesses; President George H.W. Bush appointed one. So it’s not like President Obama somehow invented the process of recess appointments.

No, what’s really going on here is that the Senate GOP is using parliamentary maneuvers to make sure the NLRB loses its ability to act.

If there is no one to enforce workers’ rights, do workers still have those rights?

Maybe not.

  • You can read about Panera Bread baker Kathleen Von Eitzen here. (And please remember her and her coworkers, the next time you’re thinking about eating at Panera Bread!)
  • You can read about Illinois pressman Marcus Hedger, fired for being a shop steward, here. (He just lost his house to foreclosure, waiting for the job reinstatement and back pay that the NLRB awarded more than nine months ago.)

Rights? Our rights?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to use delays and parliamentary maneuvers to strip rights away from 80 million Americans. House Democrats have protested – unanimously. Isn’t it time we did, too? Here’s how to contact him.

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About Liz Iacobucci

Liz Iacobucci is the former Public Information Officer for the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU Local 1984. Over the past three decades, she has served in government at the federal, state and municipal levels; and she has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians.
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