During a national union hall meeting, CWA President Larry Cohen urged members to join the fight to make the National Relations Board functional again. Cohen told the 10,000 CWAers participating in the union’s monthly teleconference that Republican Senators are blocking the nominations of NLRB board members, which in effect, has caused the work of the NLRB to grind to a halt.
Because the federal courts ruled that President Obama’s two recess NLRB appointments were unconstitutional, there is only one active NLRB board member, which means that the board cannot have a quorum, and therefore can’t make any decisions on pending cases, said Cohen at the union hall meeting. To function again, the NLRB needs a full contingent of five board members, Cohen added
Republicans have intentionally obstructed the NLRB from doing its business of enforcing labor law and protecting 80 million workers, said Sen. Tom Harkin at the union hall meeting. Their goal is to eliminate the National Labor Relations Act, but they can’t do that directly, so they’re making it impossible for the NLRB to function by blocking the appointment of people who have been nominated to serve on the board.
CWA members and other union activists visited Capitol Hill on May 16 to urge Senators to allow an up or down vote on the five nominees, three of whom are Democrats and the other two Republicans.
“We’re not going to just be hopeful that Senate Democrats do the right thing,” said Cohen. “Progressives of all types understand the system is broken and that many nominations cannot get through the Senate despite majority support. Working people know that a full-strength NLRB is the first step to justice on the job. And they’re fed up. They’re fed up with gridlock, and they want their senators to make a difference.”
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Harkin, subsequently approved and sent the nominations to the full Senate for final approval. In the past, Sen. Republicans have used the rules of the Senate to block the Senate from taking an up or down vote on NLRB nominations, which has created the current void at the board.
Cohen, during the union hall meeting, urged members who live in states with Democratic senators to contact those senators and make sure they understand how important it is to overcome Republican obstructionism and force a vote on all five nominees even if that means changing the Senate rules so that the majority can decide whether the nominees receive their appointment.
Cohen said that the union is even supporting a vote on two of the nominees who received their nomination from Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. I don’t agree with some of the positions that these nominees have taken, said Cohen. But they are qualified and should at least be given the courtesy of an up or down vote. Furthermore, the only way that the board can become truly functional again is for the board to have its full complement of board members.
Sometimes the NLRB can be slow to act, and businesses have been able to take advantage of this slowness to prevent workers from exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, but NLRB has in the past made decisions that saved workers’ jobs.
One of those workers is Jennifer Travis, a CWA member from Pittsburg, who was unlawfully fired during a two-week strike by Verizon workers on the East Coast. Travis, a CWA steward, was a vocal and active supporter of the strike, who was illegally targeted for firing by Verizon.
CWA filed a charge against Verizon with the NLRB on behalf of Travis and dozens of other union activists who were illegally fired during the strike. The NLRB subsequently filed a complaint against Verizon, and that complaint was an important reason that Verizon agreed to rehire Travis and nearly all of the other union activists who were fired during the strike.
In addition to urging CWA members to contact their senators to urge them to support a vote on all five NLRB nominations, Cohen said that members should also sign the Give Me Five NLRB Members petition at http://action.cwa-union.org/c/1693/p/salsa/web/tellafriend/public/?tell_a_friend_KEY=9096.