Trumka: Anti-labor board bill would gut worker protections, hurt economy

Worker protections would be gutted under a GOP bill expected to be voted on in the House this week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka charged Monday.

The labor chief said the legislation, which would curb the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) legal authority, was part of a concerted campaign to undermine the labor movement this year. Unions, which are traditional allies of the Democratic Party, have come under frequent attack in and outside Washington since the 2010 elections.

{mosads}The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), would prohibit the NLRB from ordering a company to relocate its employment. It comes in response to the labor board’s April 20 complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers — a case that is ongoing and that Congress should leave alone, according to Trumka.

“They have taken this thing completely out of context while we were still in the very early stages of the process for exactly what you said: for political reasons. I think the appropriate response is for Congress to stay out of the process until a decision is made, as the process requires,” Trumka said on a conference call with reporters. “We’re telling them to vote against it because it is a bad bill. It’s bad for the process. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for Boeing. It’s bad for the workers.”

The legislation is likely to pass the lower chamber, given the GOP majority in the House, but odds are it would die in the Democratically controlled Senate.

The NLRB filed a complaint against Boeing after executives expressed concerns that the company’s unionized operations in the state of Washington could slow production of their new Dreamliner jet. Consequently, the company started a production line for the jet in South Carolina, a right-to-work state that generally prohibits union membership.

The complaint has become a campaign issue, with several Republican presidential candidates weighing in against the labor board. On Monday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) toured Boeing’s facilities in South Carolina, which are at the center of the NLRB complaint, and gave a speech blasting the NRLB.

Trumka said he was not surprised by the GOP presidential candidate’s speech.

“Look, he is more interested in scoring cheap political shots and points for his election bid and supporting Boeing than he is talking with working families in Charleston about their concerns for family-sustaining jobs,” Trumka said. “This is what we expected. He is an investor in Boeing, and he is the person who called corporations ‘people.’ ”

With Scott’s bill expected to be voted on this week, the NLRB has found itself the subject of a number of radio ad campaigns sponsored by a variety of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Lawmakers are being urged to vote for the bill by the trade associations, since it would restrict the labor board’s legal authority.

Due to the Boeing complaint and a regulation proposed by the board to speed up union elections, the NLRB has become a prime target for GOP lawmakers this year. Many have threatened to hold up nominations and pledged to block recess appointments to the labor board in order to shut it down.

A non-functioning board is a real possibility, since the five-member NLRB needs three members to hold a quorum. With Wilma Liebman leaving the board last month and board member Craig Becker’s term expiring when Congress adjourns this year, likely in December, the labor board will be down to just two members.

Trumka said the AFL-CIO will work hard to keep the board up and running.

“We will make sure we do everything we can to have a functioning board, because the workers out there, union and non-union workers alike, are entitled to have their rights protected. Without a National Labor Relations Board that functions, they can’t,” Trumka said.

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