House takes step toward freezing National Labor Relations Board

The bill is a reaction to President Obama's decision last year to "recess appoint" three people to the NLRB, two of whom are still there: Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. But a federal court found that the appointments were unconstitutional, as the Senate was not in recess at the time.

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The Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act, H.R. 1120, would temporarily freeze the board in light of that ruling, and would invalidate any decisions made with Block and Griffin on the board since last year.

Republicans said the bill is needed because the court ruling shows that it's not clear that the NLRB has any authority to make decisions related to labor-management disputes.

"This decision calls into question every action the board has taken since the so-called recess appointments were made," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said of Obama's appointments.

Foxx also stressed that the bill would not prevent regional NLRB offices from hearing complaints about unfair labor practices that may be occurring around the country.

Democrats argued that the GOP bill is an attempt to make a political point, and has no chance of going anywhere because the Senate is unlikely to consider it. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) also said it's illogical to try to codify the appeals court decision on the NLRB appointments.

"When have we ever enshrined an intermediate court decision into statute? It makes absolutely no sense," he said.

Republicans, however, pointed out that the bill does not freeze the NLRB's work forever. Instead, it prevents the board from meeting until a valid quorum can meet, which could be when the Senate confirms new members to the board. It would also allow the work of the NLRB to go forward if the Supreme Court were to rule that the appointments are valid.

The adjournment sine die of Congress at the end of this year would also terminate the freeze on the NLRB's work.

Currently, the NLRB board is comprised only of Block, Griffin and Chairman Mark Pearce. Three board members is the minimum needed to have a quorum at the NLRB.