By Kevin Bogardus - 11/30/11 05:04 PM EST
Prominent Democratic lawmakers pledged Wednesday to push back against Republican attacks on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The labor board has come under frequent criticism this year for filing a complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers, and for proposing a number of new regulations, most controversially a rule that would speed up union elections. Business groups have decried those moves as regulatory overreach, and GOP lawmakers have put forward a number of bills to limit the NLRB’s authority.
“This isn’t just another piece of legislation. This is about ending the National Labor Relations Act,” said Miller, the ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Miller called the battle over the NLRB “a fundamental fight” with Republicans, who he said are looking to end the agency that adjudicates disputes between workers and employers.
“This is a right wing on steroids,” Miller said.
Also at the forum, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Democrats have lost fights in the past over legislation on labor rights.
“We can’t lose this one, folks. This is one where we draw the line in the sand,” Harkin said.
Harkin called the NLRB “the last bastion” and said everything must be done to stop it from being dismantled.
“What I have to do as chairman of my committee, I will do whatever I can to stop this from ever happening,” Harkin said.
Harkin is also chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, a central battleground for fights over the NLRB’s funding.
Harkin said with the Republican-controlled House, he has been fighting “a rearguard action” to prevent provisions from being slipped through Congress to reduce the labor board’s funding or undermine its legal authority.
Miller joked that he’s glad the Democrats have retained control of the Senate.
“I always thought when we had the majority, the Senate was a pain in the ass. Now I think they’re an absolute necessity,” Miller said to laughs. “Just to show you, I can change my views. I’m open to suggestion here.”
The labor board is also expected to vote Wednesday on moving forward on portions of the proposed union election rule.