Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in NLRB Recess Appointments Case

The Supreme Court has announced they will consider a case against President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The ruling, which is expected to be handed down sometime this fall, will hinge on the Court’s interpretation of a president’s power to make recess appointments, which both Republican and Democratic administrations have historically used to fill vacancies while the Senate is out of session.

The independent federal agency that rules on employer and employee grievances has been operating under a cloud of uncertainty since a panel of three conservative judges on the D.C. Circuit Court declared Obama’s January 2012 recess appointments to the board unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court upholds the circuit court’s decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning, it could invalidate hundreds of the board’s rulings and effectively shut down the NLRB, which wouldn’t have a quorum of at least three members.

Recess appointments have been upheld in court before, but this effort to silence the NLRB and working people was backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s top business lobby. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said “the NLRB as inoperable could be considered progress.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said the GOP-backed effort to disarm the NLRB marks a new level of obstructionism in Washington.

“It used to be that Republicans said it was fine as long as they controlled it,” said Harkin. “Now they don’t want a board at all. They want to do away with the [National Labor Relations Act], and that’s only enforceable by actions of the board.

“This is quite a disturbing development in our labor-management relations in this country,” he added.

For working families all across the country, the uncertainty of NLRB rulings has a real-life impact. Clarence Adams from Brooklyn, NY, was fired by Cablevision for asking for a fair contract. The NLRB filed charges against Cablevision, but the company is refusing to attend hearings because they view the NLRB to be insolvent.

Wilma Liebman, a former chairwoman of the NLRB, wrote in an op-ed in Politico that Republicans are doing the country a disservice by handcuffing the board to score political points.

“Surely, the unions, employers and individual employees who rely on the NLRB to resolve disputes over unfair labor practices and union representation deserve better than this crisis of governance,” said Liebman. “They deserve — indeed need — a government that works, not dysfunction and partisan warfare. So does the American public.”

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