UAW Withdraws Volkswagen Election Objections, Ending The NLRB Review

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NLRB 1CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The UAW announced today it is withdrawing objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding February’s vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, effectively terminating the NLRB review process.

UAW President Bob King said the decision was made in the best interests of Volkswagen employees, the automaker, and economic development in Chattanooga. King said the UAW based its decision on the belief that the NLRB’s historically dysfunctional and complex process potentially could drag on for months or even years. Additionally, the UAW cited refusals by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to participate in a transparent legal discovery process, which undermines public trust and confidence.

“The unprecedented political interference by Gov. Haslam, Sen. Corker and others was a distraction for Volkswagen employees and a detour from achieving Tennessee’s economic priorities,” King said. “The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga.”

UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern region, echoed that the UAW’s focus is advocating for Volkswagen to create more jobs in Tennessee by adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant. The Haslam administration in August offered nearly $300 million in incentives to bring the new SUV to Chattanooga, but attempted to make the investment contingent on whether the Chattanooga plant is organized. The Haslam administration’s contingency is contrary to Volkswagen’s successful business model, which is premised on worker representation.

“The UAW wants to help create quality jobs and build world-class products for American consumers,” Casteel said. “With this in mind, we urge Gov. Haslam to immediately extend the incentives that previously were offered to Volkswagen for this new SUV line, and do so unconditionally.”

King said the UAW has accomplished a major goal with its election objections. “The UAW’s objections informed the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties who want to prevent workers from exercising their democratic right to choose union representation,” he said.

King also said that outdated federal laws governing the NLRB never contemplated the level of extreme intimidation and interference that occurred in Chattanooga. Even if the NLRB ordered a new election — the board’s only available remedy under current law — nothing would stop politicians and anti-union organizations from again interfering.

Looking ahead, the UAW believes the congressional inquiry into the Haslam administration’s incentives threat to Volkswagen provides the best opportunity for additional scrutiny. The UAW will ask Congress to examine the use of federal funds in the state’s incentives threat, in order to protect Tennessee jobs and workers in the future.

“Frankly, Congress is a more effective venue for publicly examining the now well-documented threat,” King said. “We commend Congressmen George Miller and John Tierney for their leadership on this matter, and look forward to seeing the results of their inquiry.”

United Automobile Workers (UAW) has more than 390,000 members and more than 750 local unions across America. Since its founding in 1935, the UAW has developed partnerships with employers and supported industry-leading wages and benefits for its members. (FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Michele Martin, mmartin@uaw.net, (313) 926-5291 or    (313) 510-4269, or visit www.uaw.org/uawvw)

Following is a statement by the Communications Workers of America on the UAW withdrawing objections to the Volkswagen Election:

Washington, D.C. — The Communications Workers of America (CWA) stands with the United Auto Workers (UAW) as that union drops its objections to the NLRB representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Now the focus will shift to the congressional investigation into the third party anti-union campaign by elected officials, Grover Norquist and other outside groups.  Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, are investigating the interference and the shortcomings of our outdated federal labor laws.

In our increasingly globalized world, large foreign multinational corporations are investing in facilities in the U.S.   Some, like Volkswagen, have been greeted by hostile outside campaigns to undermine workers’ right to collective bargaining, usually with cooperation by US management.  In many cases US management embraces anti-union tactics they shun at home, where unions often have recognition and respect. This case was unique in that VW management in Germany and at least officially in the US adopted extensive neutrality provisions which only inflamed outside agitators like Norquist even more.  In a similar case, CWA and the large German services union ver.di have been supporting T-Mobile employees’ struggle to organize for more than 10 years.  Unfortunately the principal owner Deutsche Telekom and US management are anything but neutral.

For all of us the issue remains: What are the rights of employees in a global economy?  Will the U.S. continue to operate at the low end on workers’ rights, accepting the fantasy land of Tennessee elected officials like Governor Haslam and U.S. Senator Corker that markets alone provide a fair outcome?  Or will we build a movement and a consensus that Corker, Haslam and Norquist are way out of bounds and that if we don’t stop them, there will continue to be growing inequality and a falling living standard for most of us in the U.S.?

 

NLRB Charges Kellogg With Serious Violations Of Federal Law

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KelloggsFactSheet_WebHead-550x204

Earlier today, the U.S. government charged the Kellogg Company with multiple and serious violations of federal law stemming from its October 22, 2013 lockout of more than 220 workers at the company’s Memphis cereal production facility.

In filing a Complaint against Kellogg based on charges filed by Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) Local 252G, the local representing the locked out members, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – the official charged with prosecuting employers for violating the National Labor Relations Act – determined that the company’s conduct in the supplemental contract negotiations in Memphis that led to the lockout was in clear violation of the federal law governing labor and management relations in the U.S.

In the March 27 Complaint, the Board’s General Counsel validated the charges filed by BCTGM Local 252G. The Complaint outlines that, during the course of the negotiations that led to the lockout, Kellogg insisted that the union bargain on and agree to changes to a contract that was still in effect – a subject Kellogg had no right to insist on – and in so doing, “threatened to lockout employees” and “locked out all bargaining-unit employees . . .in support of its bargaining demands if the union did not ratify  [Kellogg’s] last contract offer before October 22, 2013.”  By doing that, the Complaint asserts, Kellogg “interfer[red] with, restrain[ed], and coerc[ed] employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act”; “discriminat[ed] in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment of its employees” and “ fail[ed] and refus[ed] to bargain collectively  and in good faith with the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of its employees.”

Commenting on the NLRB ruling, BCTGM International Union President David B. Durkee stated, “The BCTGM commends the Board’s General Counsel on its action.  For more than five months, the locked out workers in Memphis have been victimized by a $14 billion multinational corporation so consumed by greed that it was willing to break U.S. law in order to get what it wanted from its workers.

“Today’s action by the Board’s General Counsel is the first step in validating all that the BCTGM and our locked out members have consistently said since the beginning of this tragic lock out – that the company violated the law by demanding to negotiate on subjects that are not legally proper for the Memphis negotiations.

“This decision also exposes the disingenuous and misleading public relations campaign Kellogg has been waging for the past five months in which it called on the Union to return to the bargaining table for negotiations.  As today’s Complaint alleges, Kellogg had broken the very law that governs the negotiations the company wanted the local union to resume.

“For more than 155 days and at a tremendous personal and financial cost, these courageous workers have remained steadfast in their belief in the rule of law.  Today, the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel struck the first loud blow for justice.

“All these workers have ever wanted, since the day they were locked out is to return to the jobs they have performed skillfully and with deep dedication for many, many years in order that they can provide for their families.

“The BCTGM urges the Kellogg Company to finally drop its disingenuous public relations campaign, accept its responsibility for breaking the law and end this tragic lockout and immediately return these hard-working men and women to their jobs so they can begin rebuilding their lives shattered by a once-honorable company that has lost its moral compass. This horrendous injustice has gone on far too long,” concludes Durkee.

The BCTGM represents more than 4,000 Kellogg employees throughout North America. The BCTGM also represents thousands more workers in the cereal industry at such companies as General Mills, Quaker Oats, and Ralcorp.

United Auto Worker Say: NLRB Wrong To Allow Right-Wing Groups To Intervene In VW Vote

UAW and VW

UAW and VWDETROIT –The UAW released the following statement in reaction to the NLRB ruling to let outside-funded groups participate in the hearing regarding the interference of state and federal politicians in the UAW election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga:

“It is an outrage that the Atlanta Region of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), deviating from the board’s own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that are masquerading as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians’ threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW representation.

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.  They have mocked the NLRB process and have denigrated workers who are demanding that the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference.

“One of these groups, ‘Southern Momentum’ – an ally of outside groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation – claims to be an organic group of Volkswagen workers who came together of their own accord to participate in the election campaign.  Instead, Southern Momentum, registered at a management law firm, disclosed after the election that in two weeks, it raised “funding in the low six figures” from “businesses and individuals” rather than Volkswagen workers, according to Reuters news service.

“With this secret business funding, this “grassroots” organization also hired one of the nation’s largest anti-union firms, Projections, to create propaganda for their anti-union campaign.  Southern Momentum neglected to publicly disclose these facts during the election campaign.”

Of Southern Momentum, the UAW reiterated, “Its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers.”

The UAW plans to appeal the NLRB Region 10 ruling to full NLRB.

The NLRB Finds Merit In Anti-Union Complaints At Orlando Health

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Yesterday it was announced that the NLRB has begun the settlement process stemming from complaints by workers organizing at Orlando Health hospitals.

At the end of 2013 the National Nurses United filed multiple complaints of harassment with the NLRB.

Jennifer Lemmon, Assistant Director of Organizing for National Nurses United explained the charges in an email to the NH Labor News.

The National Labor Relations Board contacted the Union and indicated that the Tampa Regional Office found merit to many of the Union’s allegations that Orlando Health hospitals have been violating federal labor law during the nurses’ Union organizing campaign.  The NLRB informed the Union that the hospitals will be allowed a chance to settle these allegations but that if they don’t, the NLRB’s General Counsel will prosecute the hospitals before a federal administrative law judge, alleging:

•     at Winnie Palmer Hospital : the employer created the impression that employees are under surveillance because of their union activity; interrogated employees about their Union activity;  made threats of unspecified reprisals to employees because of their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of nurses’ Union activity. 

 •     at Dr. Phillips Hospital : interrogated employees about their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

•     and at South Seminole Hospital also  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

The NH Labor News reported on these anti-union tactics back in September before charges were officially filed. What Orlando Health did not expect is that by pushing back against the organizing efforts it would solidify the workers and their strengthen their resolve to form a new union.

“We hope the hospitals do the right thing and settle these charges against them and allow nurses their federally protected right to organize a union without their interference,” said Jennifer Lemmon. “But if it comes to a trial and the Judge finds in  favor of the NLRB’s General Counsel, the Judge will make recommended findings to the NLRB’s 5-member Board, who are appointed by the president, and will order the hospitals to refrain from their unlawful actions.”

Organizing efforts began as Orlando Health arbitrarily cut workers pay and laid off hundreds of workers which began taking effect just this week.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

In a recent interview with Channel 9 WFTV in Orlando, the spokeswomen for Orlando Health, Kena Lewis, stated: “We haven’t done anything wrong and we’ll see what happens, but we don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.”

If you have done nothing wrong why are you in resolution discussions with the NLRB?

 

 

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden
1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

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Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)

Still Waiting for Congress to fix Taft-Hartley By Passing EFCA

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

It has been a decade since Sen. Ted Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.

He filed the bill on Friday, November 21, 2003 – almost exactly 40 years after the death of President John F. Kennedy.

A coincidence? Not likely. Here’s the back story:

The Employee Free Choice Act would restore union organizing rights that were taken away by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. John F. Kennedy was a member of the Congress that passed Taft-Hartley.

“The first thing I did in Congress was to become the junior Democrat on the labor committee. At the time we were considering the Taft-Hartley Bill. I was against it, and one day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I debated the bill with a junior Republican on that committee who was for it . . . his name was Richard Nixon.” [from a 1960 recording of President Kennedy reflecting on his career]

Both Kennedy and Nixon believed that Nixon won that debate. And just weeks later, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding a veto by President Harry Truman.

President Truman was eerily accurate in his predictions of what the Taft-Hartley Act would do.

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

From his radio address to the country:

“The Taft-Hartley bill is a shocking piece of legislation. It is unfair to the working people of this country. It clearly abuses the right, which millions of our citizens now enjoy, to join together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and fair working conditions. …”

“I fear that this type of legislation would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

From his veto message to Congress:

“When one penetrates the complex, interwoven provisions of this omnibus bill, and understands the real meaning of its various parts, the result is startling. … the National Labor Relations Act would be converted from an instrument with the major purpose of protecting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively into a maze of pitfalls and complex procedures. … The bill would deprive workers of vital protection which they now have under the law…. This bill is perhaps the most serious economic and social legislation of the past decade. Its effects–for good or ill–would be felt for decades to come.”

Fast-forward through those decades, and read the testimony of former National Relations Labor Board Hearing Officer Nancy Schiffer:

“At some point in my career… I could no longer tell workers that the [National Labor Relations] Act protects their right to form a union. … Over the years, the law has been perverted. It now acts as a sword which is used by employers to frustrate employee freedom of choice and deny them their right to collective bargaining. When workers want to form a union to bargain with their employer, the NLRB election process, which was originally established as their means to this end, now provides a virtually insurmountable series of practical, procedural, and legal obstacles.”

Read this report by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago:

“Each year in the United States, more than 23,000 workers are fired or penalized for union activity. Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers’ rights, employers manipulate the current process of establishing union representation in a manner that undemocratically gives them the power to significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections. … Union membership in the United States is not declining because workers no longer want or need unions. Instead, falling union density is directly related to employers’ near universal and systematic use of legal and illegal tactics to stymie workers’ union organizing.”

Read the report by Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner:

“Our findings suggest that the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime … many of the employer tactics that create a punitive and coercive atmosphere are, in fact, legal. Unless serious labor law reform with real penalties is enacted, only a fraction of the workers who seek representation under the National Labor Relations Act will be successful. If recent trends continue, then there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and collectively bargain.”

Now, go back and consider President Truman’s most serious prediction from 66 years ago: that the Taft-Hartley Act “would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

President John F. Kennedy

Think about our national politics.  Isn’t our country divided enough? Isn’t it time to reverse the process started by the Taft-Hartley Act?

It’s been a decade since Sen. Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.  Next week, we will mark a half-century since President John F. Kennedy died.

 

Isn’t it time to yank the roots of discord, start ending the conflict, and heal the division that was created by the Taft-Hartley Act?

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To my long-time readers: apologies if this sounds familiar.  Once again, I have just updated last year’s post to reflect the passage of time; there was no reason to write a new post, because things haven’t changed.  So instead of trying to reword things I’ve already said, I’m just going to start using a new hashtag: #dejavu. (You can see all my repeats in one place!)

Actually, it’s not exactly true that “things haven’t changed.”  In this case they are changing — they’re getting worse.  But more on that, tomorrow.

Boeing versus its unions: de ja vu all over again

Boeing Dreamliner

Boeing DreamlinerOh, dear.

Looks like Boeing’s corporate culture is still stuck in that same old pattern.  Still looking for government handouts, still insisting on concessions from their labor unions.  Or they’ll (once again) move production to a low-labor-cost southern state that is willing to give them lots of money to locate there.   (How much is “lots”? According to Reuters, the package on the table in Washington state is: $8 billion in tax incentives plus another $10 billion in transportation infrastructure.)

Now… myself, I remember (vividly!) a certain NLRB case, the last time Boeing threatened its unions and moved production to a southern state.  Do you think that maybe Boeing didn’t get the memo when the Senate finally confirmed President Obama’s NLRB appointments?

Or is Boeing just trying to create another opportunity to litigate all those anti-worker legal theories, which weren’t tested because the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop that enforcement action?

I, myself, don’t see any significant difference between Reuters’ account of what is happening now and what happened back when Boeing moved Dreamliner production out of Washington.  But maybe that’s just me.

And maybe I’m the only one who thinks that low labor costs don’t lead to high-quality products.

And maybe I’m the only one who thinks that holding local jobs hostage while basically forcing a government to give you money isn’t an honorable way to do business.

But then again, I’m not a Boeing stockholder.

And I’m not likely to fly anywhere on a Dreamliner, any time soon.

Read NHLN’s previous Boeing coverage here.

AFL-CIO and CWA Respond To Senate Confirmation Of Richard Griffin To The NLRB

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Today the Senate confirmed Richard Griffin to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. This means that we finally have five members on the NLRB again. After the Senate vote Richard Trumka (President of the AFL-CIO) released the following statement:

Earlier this year, a full complement of National Labor Relations Board members were confirmed for the first time in more than a decade. With today’s confirmation of Richard Griffin to serve as General Counsel, the NLRB is now running on all cylinders to meet its duty to fairly and impartially oversee the workplace rights of millions of Americans.

Richard Griffin is superbly qualified for this important post. He has deep knowledge of labor law and decades of practical experience. He will serve the NLRB with distinction.

A functioning NLRB is good news for all workers – whether they belong to a union or not – seeking to exercise the rights they are guaranteed by law. These essential rights include the right of workers to stand together and bargain  for fair wages, safe workplaces, and other improvements on the job.  America’s working families applaud the Senate for taking much needed action on all NLRB nominees.

The Communication Workers of America have been pushing very hard to get five members on the NLRB.  After the vote CWA released this statement:

“The Communications Workers of America commends the U.S. Senate confirmation of Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission.

CWA looks forward to working with Mr. Wheeler on critical policy issues in the telecommunications industry, including affordable high-speed Internet access and how FCC policy should help create stable and quality employment in the industry.”

Senate Vote Ensures Continued Labor Law for 80 Million Workers

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Washington, DC – Following is a statement by the Democracy Initiative on today’s Senate vote confirming three Democratic members to the National Labor Relations Board. The Democracy Initiative has brought together labor, environmental, civil rights and democracy groups to fight to fix the broken Senate rules, get corporate money out of politics and expand voting rights.

Today’s action by the U.S. Senate means that for the first time in a decade, the National Labor Relations Board will have a Senate-confirmed, fully functioning Board.

The three Democratic members confirmed by the Senate today are Mark Pearce, Nancy Schiffer, and Kent HIrozawa. The Senate quickly confirmed Republicans Harry Johnson and Phil Miscimarra.

Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen said today’s Senate action is “long overdue. President Obama began his second term without a Democratic majority on the NLRB, and for workers that has meant continued delay in workplace justice, whether to enforce their bargaining rights or protect them from an employer’s illegal action. Today’s Senate action is a step toward justice for 80 million private sector workers.”

Nearly all Senate Democrats stood strong to force the Republican minority to stop the obstruction that kept too many of the President’s executives nominations waiting for Senate action for as long as two years.  That means that this Labor Day, 80 million workers will continue to have the protections of federal law and that the only agency that can enforce workplace rights will be fully functional.

The Democracy Initiative, founded by CWA, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and NAACP, now includes 60 like-minded organizations committed to stopping the abuse of Senate rules, ending corrupting influence of corporate money in politics and turning around the attack on voter rights.

These issues are linked. We are a nation with the lowest voter registration level at just 70 percent, the lowest collective bargaining rate at just 11 percent and the highest rate of corporate spending in our election process. Members of the Democracy Initiative know that Americans are up against a right-wing agenda of no voting rights, no bargaining rights and no limits on corporate spending in our democratic process. That’s the fight we’re in to win.

Will Yesterday’s Filibuster Agreement Fix The Broken Senate?

Senator Harry Reid
Senator Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid

Yesterday Senator Harry Reid laid out his ultimatum to the Senate Republicans.  He called it his ‘nuclear option’.  Reid said that if the Republican Senators did not remove their objections on Presidential appointees that he would change the rules of the Senate to take away that option completely.  The Republican Senators eventually caved.  They will remove their objections and allow up and down vote on these nominees.

Yeah we won, sort of.   When all the dust settles, Americans do win this battle.  The Senate will confirm the Thomas Perez (Department of Labor), Richard Cordray (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), Gina McCarthy (EPA), and Fred Hochberg (Export-Import Bank nominee) with an up and down vote.  They also agreed to remove the NLRB nominees and replace them with two new nominees, which the Republicans have agreed not to block.

That is good news.  We are making progress and we should have two new board members on the NLRB before the August recess.

The Communication Workers of America have been pushing very hard for changes in the Senate.  They started a campaign called ‘Fix the Senate’ in which they are calling for Senator Reid to change the filibuster rule and go back to speaking filibuster. The speaking filibuster rule made Senators stand in front of the Senate when they wanted to block a bill.

CWA President Larry Cohen released this statement:

“It’s likely that we’ll see four of the seven nominations go forward as part of the agreement reached by the Senate, and that’s positive. This encourages us that we can move toward a 21st century democracy when, as in this case, we build a broad coalition like Fix the Senate Now to mobilize Americans and make sure their voices are heard.”

Cohen also raised his concerns about the nominations to the NLRB.

“Today’s Senate action does raise this question: of the seven nominations, why were two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board singled out?

President Obama will nominate two good candidates to the NLRB who will stand up for the workplace rights of 80 million working Americans.”

Why WERE the NLRB nominees singled out? That is a very interesting question.  Will the Republicans Senators hold true to their word that they will not object to two new nominees?  Are they doing this to delay the appointment of these members in an underhanded attempt to effectively shut down the NLRB?

Cohen continues, “Our path for change remains the Fix the Senate Now coalition, an organization of unions, civil rights and community groups, greens, people of faith and others. We will continue to work together to fix the broken Senate and to ensure that a Democratic majority on the NLRB is confirmed before the August recess as the Senate has assured.”

Sen. Mitch McConnellWhile everyone agrees that today’s actions by the Senate are a big step forward, however did we really win anything?  We may have won this battle, but the war is far from over.  How long will it be before the Senate Republicans block another nominee, or another piece of legislation?  We still need to push to change the filibuster rule in the Senate.  The Senate has become a black hole due to the fact that the minority blocks every bill the majority is pushing.  These obstructionists have created a system where the minority has all the power and they are abusing it.

Will this new ‘let’s work together’ attitude continue past the end of the week?  Lets not forget the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that was made about filibustering every bill back in January.  That agreement seemed to last about a week before the Republicans went back to their old bad habits.  Only time will tell who is telling the truth and who is not.