The bill was drafted in an effort to rein in the labor relations chaos created when Obama’s ‘recess’ appointees to the National Labor Relations Board were found to be unconstitutionally appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Since the Circuit Court’s ruling, hundreds of cases the NLRB has ruled on (and is still ruling on) have been thrown into legal limbo and dozens of companies, the Teamsters, as well as employees are challenging the NLRB’s validity.
Upon the bill’s passage, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) stated:
“Roughly 600 decisions are now constitutionally suspect and that number grows with each new decision. Workers, employers, and unions are in limbo. Despite claims to the contrary, the overwhelming majority of business before the NLRB is addressed by regional offices and will continue under this proposal. Today the House has simply instructed the board to stop exacerbating a crisis that is harming the American workforce.” [Emphasis added.]
As the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act is almost certain to fail in the Senate, passage of the bill in the House may only be symbolic. Were it to pass in the Senate, however, President Obama has already vowed to veto the legislation.
In separate, but related action, Labor Relations Today is reporting that Obama is requesting a $5 million (or 1.8 percent) increase to the NLRB’s FY 2014 budget.
The majority of the budget increase is intended to cover growth in compensation and benefits costs projected to be about $4 million. A large portion of that increase is likely due to the President’s proposed one percent increase in federal employees’ salaries. But it also reflects an increase from 1640 full-time equivalent employees in FY 2012 to 1680 in FY 2014. The remainder of the NLRB’s proposed budget would cover increases in costs related to equipment, supplies, materials, and other overhead items. [Emphasis added.]
Obama’s NLRB budget increase request comes at an awkward time for the constitutionally-challenged agency.
Not only is the agency operating on tenuous grounds but it has also drawn further scrutiny for union officials to do union business at taxpayer expense.
According to a Workforce Fairness Institute examination of taxpayer dollars used for union officials to conduct union business on official time, in 2010, the NLRB “used 11,480 hours of official time for 1,076 bargaining unit employees – for a cost of $690,288 to the American taxpayer.”
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court expedites hearing the case on Obama’s ‘recess’ appointments, the uncertainty surrounding the NLRB may continue well into next year.
In the meantime, employers, employees, and unions continue operating in an era of legal uncertainty when it comes to labor-related issues.