House Republicans advance bill to curb authority of labor relations board

Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved legislation Thursday that would limit the authority of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The committee marked up the bill and advanced it on a party-line vote of 23-16. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Republicans have been attacking the labor board ever since it issued a complaint on April 20 that accused Boeing of retaliating against union workers.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the committee’s chairman, said the action against Boeing could make other companies think twice about investing in the United States. 

“If the NLRB is successful, businesses across the country and abroad will rethink how they invest in our economy," Kline said in his opening remarks at the markup. 

At stake is a second production line for Boeing’s new Dreamliner jet in South Carolina.

The company moved the production line to the right-to-work state, which generally prohibits mandatory union membership, after executives worried that work stoppages at their unionized operations in Washington state could delay production. The labor board found that to be retaliation against union workers and issued their complaint, which is now before an administrative law judge.

The legislation introduced by Republicans takes aim at the labor board’s authority, and would prohibit the NLRB from ordering a company to transfer or relocate its existing or planned employment.

The bill was introduced Tuesday, and passed through the committee without its own legislative hearing.

Democrats protested the rush to move the legislation onto the House floor. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, said if the bill became law, it could likely force the judge to dismiss the complaint against Boeing.

“One reason for the rush is that the obvious beneficiary of this bill is in the middle of a trial. The bill would dramatically change the rules in its favor, mid-trial,” Miller said.

Kline noted that he has had three hearings this Congress about actions taken by the labor board, with two coming after the Boeing complaint was issued.

Unions oppose the bill. In a letter sent to Kline and Miller Wednesday, Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s government affairs director, said the legislation would strip workers of their rights, having “dire unintended consequences.”

“It will make it easier to ship U.S. jobs overseas because it legalizes the most despicable form of outsourcing — the illegal kind — by keeping the NLRB from being able to stop it,” Samuel wrote.

Business groups are likely to lobby for the passage of the legislation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already come out in support of the bill.

“By prohibiting the NLRB from seeking the extreme remedy of forcing the relocation of production, this legislation would help remove an element of uncertainty and encourage investment in new U.S. facilities,” said Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president of government affairs, in a letter to Kline Thursday.

Josten also recommended that the committee look at a number of other actions by the Labor Department and the NLRB, including proposed changes to union election rules that could speed up labor organizing. Kline told reporters earlier this month that he was considering legislation to block the union election rule changes.

This post has been updated.