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Republican Filibuster Next Battle for NLRB Nominees?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been under “relentless political attack [and] many elected officials are actively trying to shut the NLRB down,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) this morning as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (HELP) opened confirmation hearings on a package of nominees to the board.

The five nominees—three Democrats and two Republicans—are expected to be approved by the committee on a party line vote. But they must be confirmed by the full Senate and overcome an expected Republican filibuster before August when the term of one of the current NLRB members ends and the board will be without a quorum and unable to function.

That, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, is exactly what the board’s opponents are after.  In an op-ed piece in today’s The Hill, Trumka writes:

Extremist congressional Republicans and corporate lobbyists… want to weaken its power to protect workers who choose to organize and form unions on the job...South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, 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.’

Harkin noted that NLRB “is the only place workers can go if they have been treated unfairly and had their fundamental workplace rights denied,” and in recent years, the NLRB has ordered employers to reinstate more than 22,000 illegally fired workers.

Political game playing is impacting the everyday lives of people across America...there are real consequences for real people.

He pointed to Illinois pressman Marcus Hedger (see video) who was illegally fired in 2010 and who the NLRB ordered reinstated with back pay, but is caught in the legal limbo generated by a recent court decision in favor employers and anti-worker groups challenging the authority of the NLRB.     

In a letter to the committee, a group of more than 400 university professors said:

In order for our labor laws to work effectively, it is essential that the agency responsible for enforcing these laws be operational...It is imperative that the Senate move quickly to consider the package of nominees. The package is comprised of highly experienced individuals in labor/management relations. It is bipartisan and includes both management and union lawyers as well as long-time government officials.

Also a group of more than two dozen women’s organizations wrote the committee urging confirmation of the nominees.

The National Labor Relations Board has long worked to ensure the rights of employees to bargain collectively, if they choose to do so. This work is particularly meaningful for women… Unions have always been important to advancing women's economic security. Union wage and benefit structures are typically more transparent than those for non-union workplaces, which in turn helps to decrease wage discrimination… working families need a functioning, fully-staffed National Labor Relations Board to protect their right to an important strategy in the fight for economic security: collective bargaining

Text NLRB to 235246 and ask the Senate to confirm the board nominations now. (Standard message and data rates may apply.)

You also may call your senators at 1-888-264-6154.

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