NLRB and Workers Left in Limbo

Legal Challenge Could Nullify Hundreds of Decisions

The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces labor laws and provides illegally fired private sector workers with a means of recourse, hasn’t had a full slate of five members since 2003. Even worse, the board has been held in limbo thanks to a political fight over recess appointments made in early 2012.

Fortunately, some good news emerged Wednesday, as a Senate panel approved President Obama’s five nominees for the board, sending them along to the Senate for an up-or-down vote.

The board itself has been in limbo since a federal appeals court ruled the president exceeded his authority in appointing three members while senators were on break last year.

The board being in limbo has forced workers into limbo too — the NLRB has made hundreds of decisions since the recess appointments and employers have challenged many of those appointments. The NLRB meanwhile will ask the Supreme Court to look at the lower court’s ruling, but if the high court rejects the NLRB case, all of those decisions would be nullified.

Wednesday’s news is at least a step in the right direction, said Mary Kay Henry, International President of the SEIU.

“We’ve heard story after story of workers who are still waiting for justice because their cases are facing legal delays related to the legitimacy of the current NLRB members,” Henry said in a statement. “Confirming all five nominees to the NLRB would enable it to get back to work on behalf of both workers and employers and eliminate the uncertainty surrounding its operation.”

If a vote by the Senate is delayed, the board could be left with no confirmed members, and in that case, workers lose.

In New Hampshire, the NLRB covers private sector workers, such as the SEA members at Hampstead Hospital; all other SEA members are covered by the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board, or PELRB.


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