Workers Suffer as GOP Blocks NLRB Nominations

Pressman Marcus Hedger
Pressman Marcus Hedger was wrongly fired for participating in legal union activities on behalf of his coworkers. Now his case is being held up because of the handcuffing of the National Labor Relations Board by the conservative D.C. Circuit Appeals Court.

Everyday Americans are being hurt by the political game of disarming the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a recent AFL-CIO video interview with illegally-fired pressman Marcus Hedger shows.

Hedger, a former Fort Dearborn Co. employee, lost his job at the Illinois printing company for union activities he participated in on behalf of his coworkers. Last September, the NLRB ordered he get his job back and receive back pay. But due to a D.C. Circuit Court ruling by a conservative three-judge panel on the status of recess-appointed NLRB members, the same court has put off action on the appeal of Hedger’s reinstatement by his employer.

While the NLRB has been too understaffed to enforce decisions, Hedger has lost his house to foreclosure. His story mirrors the plight of many working Americans who are now without a governing body to rule on and enforce labor law.

“I had to change my entire lifestyle,” said Hedger. “It’s a heck of a thing to do when you build up your life and you think you finally made it. You know, it was the American dream. It was our house and our home and now it’s taken away.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee will be considering President Obama’s package of five nominees to the NLRB. A Senate floor vote of the nominees will not occur until after the Memorial Day recess.

In an op-ed published Monday in The Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urged the Senate to confirm the president’s Board nominations quickly. The nominees include three current members of the Board and two nominees who have not served previously on the Board but who have been drawn from the ranks of attorneys who represent management in disputes with employees. Without action by the Senate, the Board will soon be left without the quorum of at least three members, which is required in order for the Board to function.  

“Responsibility for providing needed stability and the functioning NLRB that working people need and deserve is now up to the Senate,” wrote Trumka. “Members should act quickly and confirm the president’s full slate of nominees. The strength of our economy depends on it.”

Obama released a statement that reinforced his support of a fully-functioning NLRB: “By enforcing workplace protections, upholding the rights of workers and providing a stable workplace environment for businesses, the NLRB plays a vital role in our efforts to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. I urge the Senate to confirm them swiftly so that this bipartisan board can continue its important work on behalf of the American people.”

But the Republican assault on the NLRB doesn’t stop there. The dubiously-titled “Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act” (H.R. 1120), which passed the House along party lines in April, would deprive both labor and management of the ability to seek adjudication when their labor rights have allegedly been violated.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key leader of the charge, said, “I will continue to block all nominations to the NLRB. … The NLRB as inoperable could be considered progress.” In March, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and 17 co-sponsors introduced a budget amendment that would defund decisions and regulations made by the Board.

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