The Corner

Hobbling the NLRB

I’ve written several times about the inherently politicized nature of the National Labor Relations Board — the body tasked with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, which governs union matters at most private firms. Republican presidents stock it with lawyers who represent management for a living, Democrats stock it with union stooges, and the Obama administration in particular has used it to tilt the playing field in its preferred direction.

Well, it looks like the problem may be put on hold. Republican NLRB member Brian E. Hayes — whom Obama himself appointed to satisfy the requirement that no more than three of the board’s members can be from the president’s party — has threatened to resign in protest. The board has dwindled down to three members total since Hayes’s appointment, so this would deny the board a quorum. The New York Times has the story:

Mr. Hayes has made his threat expressly to block the Democratic-dominated board from adopting new rules to speed up unionization elections, which the board’s other current members, both Democrats, intend to pass Nov. 30.

But even if Mr. Hayes does not resign, the appointment of one of the Democrats expires at the end of the year. With Senate Republicans vowing to block any replacement nominees, the board will have only two of the five members it is supposed to have — not enough to issue any decisions or rules.

Peter Kirsanow explained why the proposed election rules are problematic here. And if a quorum is denied, the NLRB will also be unable to act on the notorious complaint its general counsel filed against Boeing.

This is not the ideal way to handle the situation — the ideal way would be to amend the NLRA so that it gives less power to the unelected NLRB, or, better yet, to repeal the NLRA entirely. But given the political reality, leaving the NLRA in place while crippling the NLRB may be the best option.

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