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Bush Board Launches Massive New Assault on Workers


Bush Board Launches Massive New Assault on Workers

Link to post at Change To Win Blog

With its term coming to an end, the Bush Administration’s craven fealty to the most extreme interests of corporate America is reaching unprecedented heights in agency rule making throughout the government. It is hard to believe that any is more egregious however than the massive assault on worker rights by the Bush majority on the National Labor Relations Board last month.

In the month of September alone, on the eve of the close of the fiscal year, the Bush NLRB issued 61, mostly anti-worker, decisions ## fully 20 percent of its total output of decisions for the year.

The National Labor Relations Board was established to encourage “the practice and procedure of collective bargaining” and to protect the “exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid and protection.”

We have said for years that the NLRB system is broken and has become a tool of corporate interests and not the worker interests it was supposed to serve. That is why the labor movement and its progressive allies are pushing to amend the law with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). But the recent NLRB decisions say that the corporate Bush backers are not satisfied. They want the law completely eviscerated before Bush leaves office to make it even more difficult for a new President and Congress to address the problems of the denial of worker rights in America.

The onslaught of decisions that are a direct violation of the intent of the National Labor Relations Act that established the NLRB is particularly interesting given that more than half of the decisions were on cases that are over four years old. For an agency notorious in its use of delay as a way to deprive workers of their rights, the sudden spate of decisions suggests that the Bush Administration is in full court press mode and will use its last months in office to gut as much as it can in the area of worker, consumer, environmental, and other protections.

This President has not only run roughshod over the Constitution, he has also destroyed the administrative rules by which our progressive laws have been enforced. And he plans on finishing the job before he leaves office. Labor, consumer, environmental, and other advocates for the American Dream need to link arms together to stop him.

Greg Tarpinian is the Executive Director of Change to Win.

UPDATE: Some readers have requested specific examples of decisions from this group that illustrate why they’re so bad. Here you go:

Harder to join a union, easier to get rid of a union

Dana Corp., 351 NLRB No. 28 (Sept. 29, 2007) – In its fervor to undermine majority sign-up - the right of a majority of workers to sign a card to express their desire to gain a voice on the job and join a union - the Board reversed 40 years of precedent and invented a new rule: even when more than 50% of the workers sign cards indicating they want a union and the employer respects that choice, a 30% minority of employees may, within 45 days of voluntary recognition, petition to decertify the union, prevent the parties from bargaining, and force employees to suffer through the NLRB’s lengthy and divisive election process. Adding insult to injury, the NLRB ruled that employers would henceforth be required to post notices making sure employees are aware of their rights to overturn the union’s representation, but the notice does not include any mention of employees’ right to form a union free from interference.
Wurtland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 351 NLRB No. 50 (Sept. 29, 2007) – The Board took the opposite view about the reliability of signing a card when it comes to getting rid of a union! In this case, the NLRB ruled that signatures on a petition were sufficient to get rid of an existing union and the Board rejected its own election process, arguing that employees who want to get rid of their union should not have to endure the delay involved in a decertification election. In Dana, the NLRB said that signature cards were not true indicators of employee support.
Harder for illegally fired workers to get back pay

St. George Warehouse, 351 NLRB No. 42 (Sept. 30, 2007) – The NLRB reversed 45 years of precedent and shifted burdens of proof onto illegally fired workers, making it harder for those workers to recover back pay.
The Grosvenor Resort, 350 NLRB No. 86 (Sept. 30, 2007) - The Board announced a new rule that workers who were found to have been illegally fired but who wait more than two weeks before giving up on getting their job back and looking for a new job work will be denied back pay for that period so as not to “reward idleness.”
Easier for Employers to Fire and Intimidate Union Supporters

BP Amoco Chemical-Chocolate Bayou, 351 NLRB No. 39 (Sept. 29, 2007) - The Board ruled that it was perfectly permissible for an employer to target union supporters for layoffs, and then to force them to sign release forms, as a condition to receiving severance pay, that prevented them or anyone else from challenging the legality of their termination.

Posted by Greg Tarpinian, Executive Director, CtW

Why the Rush on Trade?


Why the Rush on Trade?

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; Page A21

The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru. What’s not clear is why.

The Bush administration, of course, supports trade deals with just about anyone, as it has made clear by promoting an accord with Colombia, where murdering a union activist entitles the killer to a get-out-of-jail-free card. But Congress is run by the Democrats now, and some of its leaders have sought to craft a different kind of trade bill ## one that takes workers’ rights and the environment almost as seriously as it does the right of global companies and investors to do what they will anywhere they roam. In particular, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and trade subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin have taken it upon themselves to devise these new-model trade bills.

How successful they’ve been is open to interpretation. “For the first time,” Levin wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues, “the U.S.-Peru FTA incorporates international labor standards in the trade agreement, enforceable like all other provisions.” This could be a breakthrough, since the enforcement of labor standards has generally been relegated to explicitly unenforceable side agreements in our trade pacts.

But Mark Barenberg, a Columbia University law professor who has drafted petitions for the AFL-CIO protesting the lack of labor rights in China, questions whether the Peru accord signals a breakthrough at all. The agreement, he argues in a paper released yesterday by groups opposing the pact, “does not require the Parties to comply with core labor rights” but rather with “vague, undefined, and unenforceable labor ‘principles’ and with their own domestic labor laws.” Rangel and Levin have won a pledge from the Peruvian government to toughen its labor laws, but, writes Barenberg, the agreement actually imposes lighter sanctions for labor standard violations than current trade law does.

The pact has created a rift in the labor movement. Some unions, led by the Teamsters and Unite Here (the hotel and clothing workers union), staunchly oppose the bill. Others are holding their fire in the hope that their non-opposition now will position them better to defeat upcoming pacts ## with Colombia and South Korea in particular ## that they feel pose a more direct threat to their members or to labor generally.

Democrats have reverted to their accustomed divisions on trade as well, after mustering near-unanimous opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement ## the last accord to emerge from the Bush administration without Democratic input ## in 2005. Barack Obama supports the pact while John Edwards opposes it. Hillary Clinton has yet to take a position, though she has suggested the nation may need a little “timeout” from new trade agreements pending a review of the effects previous pacts have had on American workers.

In the House, some longtime opponents of these trade accords, such as Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur, oppose the Rangel-Levin effort. Particularly striking, however, is the opposition from Democratic freshmen. When they swept into office last November, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division counted 27 of the 30 new members as critics of free trade.

Today, a number of those new House members who took previously Republican seats last year will vote against the pact.

In general, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have avoided votes on issues that divide their party ## but not, evidently, when the issue is trade. The party’s Wall Street backers, who always have friends on the Ways and Means Committee, want those votes to go forward, while many in labor adhere to the idea Clinton floated: that a strategic pause is needed to reassess the effects of such pacts and to implement some offsets to the leveling effects that globalization has had on the incomes of American workers.

In essence, the calls for a timeout on trade pacts are the corollary of demands for a timeout on immigration. Both proposals arise chiefly from working-class Americans whom our more-pro-business-than-business government has left at the mercy of every downward pressure on incomes. Democrats have an advantage over Republicans, since they support policies that would mitigate these trends, such as universal health insurance and protections for workers who wish to form unions, while Republicans have no incomes strategy.

The Republicans will probably counter by ratcheting up their war not just on illegal immigration but on immigrants themselves.

But why the Democratic rush on trade? Globalization does pose real challenges to working- and middle-class Americans. Democrats should wait until they’re in a position ## say, in 2009 ## to begin to restore some security to Americans’ economic lives before they return to cutting trade deals. Their electoral prospects, and the nation’s economic prospects, demand no less.