House Republicans stepped up their attacks on the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday, accusing the federal agency of currying favor with labor unions while hurting workers and the economy.
The NLRB has become a political hot potato under President Obama, attacked by business groups and congressional Republicans for allegedly favoring labor groups in a series of high-profile cases and rulings, most notably the agency’s battle to halt the opening of a massive new Boeing airplane factory in the right-to-work state of South Carolina.
“It’s unthinkable that any federal board would launch such a deliberate assault on our workforce, especially with millions of Americans unemployed,” Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said at the hearing to examine the NLRB. “And it’s unconscionable for Congress to stand by and let it happen.”
But Democrats on the committee shot back, pointing to the need for unions to protect workers from greedy and unscrupulous corporate owners..
“Frankly a lot of our corporations, they’re not committed to the red, white and blue,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat. “They’re only committed to the color green.”
In the Boeing case, the agency has filed a motion to move the work — and some 1,000 jobs — from South Carolina back to Washington state, where the company’s original plant is located. NLRB officials contend that Boeing officials were illegally punishing union workers for past strikes by moving the work to a brand new plant near Charleston.
“Boeing may be the most public example,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, “but it is by no means the only example.”
Senate Democrats on Wednesday narrowly turned back a provision to take away the NLRB’s authority to tell a company where it can locate work. The bill passed the House but failed to get out of a Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up on a 15-15 tie vote.
The NLRB’s attempt to speed up union elections, making it more difficult for companies to make their case against organizing, has caused nearly as much controversy and consternation among business groups.
The new rules could shorten the time leading up to the worker vote on whether to join a union from about 45 days to 10 days. Critics say the shorter deadline would give management little time to explain to employees why a union would be a bad idea.
Congressional Democrats have defended the agency while criticizing GOP lawmakers for interfering in what they say should be an independent agency review process in the Boeing case.
“I think it’s going to be very hard to do, and there’s a reason why it hasn’t been changed in all these years,” he said. “It’s very, very hard to do.”