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Public Statements

Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank my good friend.

I'm so glad my good friend talked about the question of fairness because I believe in fairness as well; and I ask my colleagues to enthusiastically, with great presence, to vote this legislation down because it is unfair because I believe in the working man and working woman and working families who desperately need a fair body that is in regular order, the NLRB, that allows companies, corporate America, to come to the table of reconciliation on issues like pay equity, of which my good friend Rosa DeLauro is a champion of and I'm joining her, on good issues like the quality of life in the workplace, the idea of income and negotiations on plants being shut down.

What my good friends want to do is deny the process to this President that Ronald Reagan used some 240 times, the hundreds of recess appointments in the 1980s, to ensure that regular order occurred in this Nation on behalf of the working men and women of America. This is a direct stab at them. This is a direct affront to them. And I would ask my colleagues to vote against this and for the working men and women of America. This is a bad bill.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose H.R. 1120, the ``Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act.''

This bill effectively prevents American employees from seeking remedies when their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, are violated.

The NLRA guarantees American workers in the private sector the right to act collectively to improve the conditions of their workplace. This applies for formal meetings with supervisors, as well as to employees who gather in the break room to discuss a new company policy or compare their paychecks.

The NLRA also protects workers when they act together to protest working conditions, such as leaving the building because the employer refuses to turn on the heat. Recently, these laws have been applied to protect employees who discussed their salaries with each other on Facebook. You don't need to be part of a union to be protected by these laws.

Under the NLRA, employees can go to the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB'') with their workplace grievances.

The NLRB is also charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices involving unions.

On January 25, 2013, in Noel Canning v. NLRB, 678 F.3d. __X, No. 12-1115 (D.C. Cir. 2013), a case challenging the constitutionality of certain appointments made to the NLRB by President Obama pursuant to his authority under Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling invalidating President Obama's appointments on the alleged ground that they violated the Recess Appointments Clause.

The D.C. Circuit's decision in Noel Canning rests upon its novel and controversial interpretation of the word ``the'' in Recess Appointments Clause, which states that "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.''

The court held that the Recess Appointments Clause applies only to "intersessional'' recesses, that is, only to the recess occurring between the first and second session of a Congress but not to ``intrasessional'' recesses, which are those occurring during either the first or second session.

The decision in Noel Canning is squarely at odds with that of every other circuit court that has considered this issue going back as far as 1880. Indeed, until the D.C. Circuit issued its bizarre ruling, this was thought to be a long settled issue, most recently affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit in 2004 in Evans v. Stephens, 387 F.3d 1220, 1226-27 (11th Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 125 S.Ct. 1640 (2005).

In Evans, the court upheld the intrasessional recess appointment of Judge William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit made by President George W. Bush. The court rejected the same argument that was advanced by the petitioner in Noel Canning, stating:

"interpreting the phrase to prohibit the President from filling a vacancy that comes into being on the last day of a Session but to empower the President to fill a vacancy that arises immediately thereafter (on the first day of a recess) contradicts what we understand to be the purpose of the Recess Appointments Clause: to keep important offices filled and the government functioning.''

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will review the Noel Canning decision, and I expect the Court to reverse the judgment of the D.C. Circuit.

Mr. Speaker, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has estimated that had the decision in Noel Canning been the controlling precedent over the last the 30 years, it would have invalidated more than 325 appointments made by Presidents of both parties, including the following conservative icons: Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Alan Greenspan, and John Bolton.

In fact, of the 326 total intrasession recess appointments made over the past three decades, 76.7 percent, or 250, were made by Republican presidents: 72 from President Reagan; 37 from President George H. W. Bush; and 141 from President George W. Bush. In contrast, less than 1 in 4 appointments (79) were made by Democratic presidents: 53 from President Clinton; a mere 26 from President Obama.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1120, the bill before us, is a solution in search of a problem. Until and unless the Supreme Court affirms the Noel Canning decision, the NLRB remains empowered to administer the National Labors Relations Act and protect the rights of workers and management as it has since its inception in 1935.

The proponents of H.R. 1120 simply dislike the NLRB and are using this bill as an excuse to try the neuter the agency. Rather than preventing greater uncertainty, this ill-considered and unwise legislation would inject uncertainty in labor-management relations.

Mr. Speaker, the American people are not fooled. They understand this bill is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to weaken the ability of organized labor to protect the interest of working families. And I am proud to stand with the President and the following organizations in unyielding opposition to this legislation:

1. AFL-CIO

2. AFSCME

3. SEIU 3

4. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

5. International Association of Machinists

6. Airline Pilots Association International

7. Transportation Trades Department

8. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

9. Building and Construction Trades Department

10. United Steelworkers

Mr. Speaker, I stand for fairness. I stand for justice. I stand with working families. I stand for certainty in labor-management relations. And that is why I stand in strong opposition to H.R. 1120, the misnamed ``Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act.''

I urge my colleagues to vote me in voting against this assault on working families.

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