AFL-CIO ‘extremely disappointed’ by Supreme Court ruling against labor board

The nation’s largest labor federation said it was disheartened by the Supreme Court ruling Thursday that voided close to 600 decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In a statement Thursday, Lynn Rhinehart, the AFL-CIO’s general counsel, said the labor group was “extremely disappointed” by the decision. The AFL-CIO believes the ruling on New Process Steel vs. NLRB will now delay the labor board’s work and that workers will have to wait longer to see their grievances answered.  

“As has become the norm, workers are once again penalized by corporate stall tactics. By the barest of majorities, five justices rewarded New Process Steel and other corporations who challenged the two-member National Labor Relations Board’s decisions as a delay method to avoid respecting workers' rights,” Rhinehart said. “We regret that as a result of the Court's decision, workers in these cases will have to wait longer still for justice.”

From January 2008 to March 2010, the five-member labor board operated with just two members. Nominees to the board are often stalled in the Senate due to concerns over whether nominees are considered too close to business or to unions, as exemplified most recently by the nomination battle over Craig Becker, a labor lawyer, who was later recess-appointed to the board by President Barack Obama. 

New Process Steel challenged the NLRB’s right to make decisions with only two members, arguing the board was not big enough to form a quorum to make decisions. The NLRB disagreed, saying they relied on the National Labor Relations Act as well as Justice Department legal advice.

For more than two years, NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman and NLRB member Peter C. Schaumber issued nearly 600 rulings when they could both agree on a decision. In a 5-4 ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court voided those rulings by saying that they did not have the authority to do so. 

In a statement, Liebman said she was disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling. 

“We believed that our position was legally correct and that it served the public interest in preventing a Board shut-down,” Liebman said. “We are of course disappointed with the outcome, but we will now do our best to rectify the situation in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.”