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Imagine a Labor Day Without Labor Law

CWA President Larry Cohen

In 1934, there were more than 1,800 strikes involving more than 1.4 million workers. General strikes followed walkouts by dock workers in San Francisco, truckers in Minneapolis and auto parts workers in Toledo.

In reaction, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. A key piece of this new labor policy: a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with clear, strong enforcement powers.

Today, under the watch of another Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the Senate, the NLRB is now in danger of being completely stripped of its authority. The protections that workers fought and died for, already diminished by subsequent legislation and court decisions, will soon disappear if the Senate fails to confirm the president’s nominees before its summer recess.

There are only three current members sitting on the five-seat NLRB. The constitutionality of the three recess appointments has been voided by the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Chairman Mark Pearce’s term will expire in August.

If the Senate does not act, we’ll soon be celebrating Labor Day without any labor law. Zero enforcement and no protections for 80 million American workers in the private sector.

That’s why on July 2, Communications Workers of America activists and our allies will be hitting the streets to put pressure on our senators.

On this National Day of Action, CWAers and partners will rally in San Francisco, St. Louis, Little Rock, Ark., Dallas and Austin, Texas, Chicago and more than a dozen other cities.

Activists will deliver hundreds more handwritten letters to Senate offices in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin demanding that their senators change the rules on Senate confirmations to allow an up-or-down vote on nominations, assuming Republicans continue to block a vote on these and other nominations.

Our members will be leafleting at worksites and making cell phone calls to Democratic senators across the nation and, when possible, scheduling meetings with senators and staff over the July 4 recess.

But lined up against us is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, most corporate labor law firms, the Republican Party apparatus, much of U.S. management, major right-wing funders and their media allies. This side is convinced they can negotiate a 2–2 labor board, where the two conservative Republicans vetted first by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and then nominated by the White House would offset two Democrats with the third never receiving a confirmation vote.  That alliance has some reach inside the Democratic side of the Senate; some of the groups raise money for some Democrats, so they have a voice in the caucus on issues like this one.  They are equally opposed to confirmation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and also oppose other presidential nominations, both executive and judicial.

Republicans, at their convention last summer, made it clear they oppose every vital aspect of labor law for workers. When the Dodd-Frank Act was passed, they made it clear they would stop a director from being confirmed, whether that was Elizabeth Warren or anyone else. Democrats now will need to decide which side they are on. We could be the first generation of working Americans since 1935 to not have the protections of the NLRB. But if we stand up and fight back now, we can be heard and make a difference.

Imagine a Labor Day Without Labor Law is a crosspost from The Huffington Post.

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