The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved legislation requiring the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to cease all activity requiring a three member quorum until the legal crisis surrounding the board is appropriately resolved. Introduced by Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (H.R. 1120) was approved by a vote of 23 to 15.
"Last year's unprecedented recess appointment scheme has rendered the board dysfunctional," said Chairman Kline. "The best way to avoid further damage is for the president to work with the Senate to confirm a full slate of qualified nominees. In the meantime, Congress must take action to prevent a bad situation from becoming much worse. H.R. 1120 is an appropriate congressional response that will help ensure America's workplaces aren't forced to confront even more uncertainty."
"Every decision issued by the current board is ripe for legal challenge on the basis the board itself is not legitimate," said Rep. Roe. "Workers, employers, and unions rely upon the board to ensure their rights are protected. Unfortunately, everyone is now stuck in a state of legal limbo. A board decision provides little comfort when the board is not recognized as constitutionally valid in a significant federal appeals court. Congress cannot stand by and allow this legal chaos to grow and my legislation ensures we don't have to."
In January 2012 President Obama installed three so-called recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while Congress was not in recess. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled these appointments unconstitutional. In the wake of the court decision, legal uncertainty surrounding the board has increased. Unions and employers cite the court decision in their efforts to void or block board rulings. The AFL-CIO stated the ruling has "seriously undermined enforcement of the law."
As approved by the committee, H.R. 1120 will:
Prevent further labor-management instability by requiring the board to cease all activity that requires a three member quorum. The bill also prohibits the board from enforcing any action taken after January 2012 or making any interagency appointments that require a quorum.
Protect the right of workers to petition for union elections. The bill also does not prevent the NLRB regional offices from accepting and processing unfair labor practice charges filed by an injured party -- worker, employer, or union.
Remove restrictions on the board's authority after one of the following events occurs:
The U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the recess appointments; or
A board quorum is constitutionally confirmed by the Senate; or
The terms of the unconstitutional recess appointees expire when the First Session of the 113th Congress adjourns.
Ensure any action involving the so-called recess appointees is reviewed and approved by a future board that has been constitutionally appointed.