By Kevin Bogardus - 11/25/11 12:39 PM EST
If Brian Hayes resigns, it would effectively quash a long-sought change to union election rules.
The labor movement is crying foul over a resignation threat from a member of the National Labor Relations Board that would effectively quash a long-sought change to union election rules.
NLRB member Brian Hayes has threatened to resign because of a proposed rule that would speed up union elections, according to a Nov. 21 letter from Democratic NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce.
If Hayes resigned, his absence would essentially shut down the NLRB and prevent a Nov. 30 vote on parts of the proposed rule.
“We think it’s really terrible to shut down a government agency over ideology,” Peter Colavito, director of government relations for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill. “I’m really struggling to find precedent for this. It’s really an outrage as an attack on workers’ rights.”
Hayes’s resignation would leave the NLRB with only two members, preventing a quorum and stopping it from issuing new rulings and regulations.
“Resigning is a political ploy asked for by the extreme right as part of their ongoing attacks on workers’ rights,” said Josh Goldstein, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. “Let’s hope, in the end, Hayes ignores the calls of right-wing pundits, activists and politicians that hurts both workers and businesses and he simply does his job.”
Time is already running short at the NLRB.
Board member Craig Becker’s recess appointment runs out at the end of December. His expected departure would cut the labor board from three members to two — even without Hayes’s resignation — preventing a quorum and limiting the board’s ability to act.
News of Hayes’s resignation threat has brought even more scrutiny to the Nov. 30 vote on the union election rule.
The AFL-CIO, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and other key labor groups, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the United Steelworkers, testified in July at a public NLRB hearing about the proposed rule. Union members were also responsible for thousands of public comments filed on the proposal.
Worries over the proposed rule — which was put forward after the NLRB filed a controversial complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers by opening a plant in right-to-work South Carolina — have led to calls in conservative circles for the labor board to be shut down.
An August open letter from the website LaborUnionReport.com, which was cross-posted on the conservative-leaning blog RedState, called for Hayes to resign to incapacitate the NLRB. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has also suggested that Hayes should resign.
“For the entire year, Republicans have played politics with the NLRB — whether blocking nominees, attempting to strip its funding, or seeking to reverse a rule or decision before it is even made,” UFCW spokesman Tim Schlittner said.
“Member Hayes’s resignation would be the most egregious of these ploys, paralyzing the board from being able to carry out its duties,” he said. “America’s workers and businesses deserve better.”
In a Nov. 18 letter sent to Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Hayes said he feels he has been frozen out of deliberations over the proposed rule, which he said the NLRB is rushing out the door.
“The Democratic members of the board are determined to finalize a flawed rule that will devastate the nation’s workforce, and by ignoring long-standing policies intended to preserve the integrity of the board’s actions,” Kline said. “If Chairman Pearce is interested in restoring faith in the board, he needs to start by withdrawing his ambush election proposal and respond in full to the committee’s oversight request without further delay.”
Kline proposed legislation that would block the proposed union election rule. That bill is expected to receive a House floor vote when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after the Thanksgiving recess.
If Hayes did resign, President Obama would have to nominate — or appoint during the recess — someone else to serve on the labor board to keep it functional. Anger over the proposed rule and the Boeing complaint, however, has led to GOP lawmakers pledging to block any new appointments to the NLRB.
“You would hope Republicans in Congress come to their senses and let nominations go forward if [Hayes] did this,” Colavito said. “I don’t think Americans want the government to shut down over ideological or partisan disputes.”