Labor board chairman: GOP member has threatened to resign over union rule

The lone Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has threatened to resign, according to the Democratic chairman, a move that would essentially shut down the controversial board. 

In a letter sent Monday to Brian Hayes, the NLRB’s lone GOP member, NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce recounts a conversation between the men about how to proceed with the labor board’s proposed union election rule.

In the letter obtained by The Hill, Pearce says Hayes threatened to resign over the proposed regulation.

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“In mid-October, I specifically discussed with you a potential schedule for consideration of the rulemaking. You did not offer any alternative schedule,” Pearce wrote in the letter to Hayes. “Instead, you indicated that, if the board proceeded with consideration of the matter, you would consider resigning your position.”

A spokeswoman for the NLRB said Hayes was unavailable for comment.

If Hayes did resign, it would bring the labor board down from three members to two, denying it a quorum and preventing it from issuing new regulations and rulings.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that two NLRB members alone lack the legal authority to issue new regulations and rulings. The labor board is expected to just have just two members by the end of December, when NLRB member Craig Becker’s recess appointment expires.

The proposed rule, backed by labor, would speed up union elections and has attracted strident opposition from business groups and Republican lawmakers since it was proposed in June. In a statement on Friday, the NLRB said Pearce “will propose issuing a final rule limited to several provisions designed to reduce unnecessary litigation” of the proposed union election regulation on Nov. 30. 

Pearce makes other references to Hayes’s threat to resign in his letter.

“On Thursday November 10, I advised you that despite your suggestion that you might resign, the Board majority wished to proceed with deliberations over the rulemaking. I encouraged you not to resign, but to participate in those deliberations,” Pearce wrote.

Democrats will likely take an interest in Pearce’s letter.

“Chairman Pearce’s letter raises serious questions about whether Mr. Hayes is actively working to disrupt the routine duties of the board. If true, Member Hayes should immediately end his attempts to obstruct, slow walk, or otherwise shut down the business of the NLRB and get back to work on behalf of taxpayers,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Democratic members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The chairman’s letter came in response to a letter the GOP member sent on Friday to Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. In the letter to Kline, Hayes said he believed a response by the NLRB to Kline’s inquiries about the union election rule was misleading. 

“The central fact omitted from the November 10 response letter is that there is a timeline for anticipated actions. My colleagues are committed to issuing a final [regulation] before Member Becker’s recess appointment expires at the end of the current Congressional session. Indeed, I was advised of this fact by the Board’s Chairman on the very day that the response letter was forwarded to your office,” Hayes wrote in his letter.

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Hayes also detailed staff resources that are being used to ready the proposed rule and said he feels that his two Democratic colleagues have frozen him out of the deliberations. Pearce, in his written response to Hayes, called those claims “false or misleading allegations.”

After receiving Hayes’s letter, Kline renewed his request to the NLRB for documents related to the proposed union election rule. 

“The NLRB has a responsibility to respond completely and truthfully to congressional oversight,” Kline said in a statement Friday. “Unfortunately, the Obama NLRB has repeatedly chosen to obstruct and delay our efforts to hold them accountable. Not only was the board’s response to our October inquiry woefully incomplete, information received today raises serious questions about whether the board acted in a deliberately misleading manner. The board is not above the law and must fully comply with legitimate oversight requests.”

Kline has also proposed legislation to block the NLRB’s proposed union election rule. That bill is expected to be voted on the House floor soon after the Thanksgiving recess when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill.