Organized Labor and the Chutzpah of Power

How Republicans and Big Business Cheat Working People

Getty Images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published June 24, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The judge noted that outside-the-window recess appointments were unknown before the Civil War, meaning the founders didn’t plan them, meaning they’re unconstitutional. The fact that they’ve been standard since the 1940s, that hundreds have been made — including appointments of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger — impressed him not at all.

Sentelle admitted that a parallel federal appeals court, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, had actually upheld those outside-the-window appointments in a 2004 ruling. In his view, the court didn’t know what it was talking about.

That’s chutzpah.

Case Three: The Chutzpah of the GOP Union-Busters.

Sentelle opened a floodgate. In April the House of Representatives voted to freeze all NLRB funding until there’s a quorum, meaning forever. In May the D.C. Circuit struck down an NLRB rule that employers must post notices telling workers of their right to form a union. The judge, A. Raymond Randolph, a George H.W. Bush appointee, ruled that it violated the employers’ freedom of speech — meaning their right not to post on their shop walls statements they disliked.

On June 13, House Republicans introduced two new bills overturning existing NLRB rulings on election procedures and bargaining units. The next day, June 14, the NLRB’s poster rule was overturned again, this time by an appeals court in Richmond, Va. The judge, Allyson Duncan, a George W. Bush appointee and onetime Clarence Thomas aide, ruled that the board has no legal authority to make rules at all — it can only oversee elections and respond to complaints.

The board argued that the law defines its mission as protecting employees’ rights to organize and as “encouraging” unionization — and gives it explicit authority “to make, amend, and rescind… such rules and regulations as may be necessary” to do its job. Duncan wasn’t impressed. That’s chutzpah.

What’s going on here? Some House Republicans say they need to “counter the NLRB, which has become an activist pro-labor group under President Obama.” They say the board is supposed to be “a referee between management and unions.”

In fact, that’s the opposite of what the law says. The board exists, the labor act says, to balance “the inequality of bargaining power” between employees exercising their rights and employers who hold the cards. It’s there to defend and encourage unions.

The notion of the NLRB as unbiased referee was brought to Washington in 1981 by the Reagan administration. Reagan openly aimed to tip the balance back to pre-New Deal days and to put business back in the driver’s seat. He succeeded. Encouraging unions has disappeared from the national agenda. By no coincidence, union membership in the private sector, the core of the economy, has dropped to just 6.6% today from nearly 20% of the workforce in 1980.

No coincidence, either, that with declining union bargaining power came skyrocketing income inequality. Companies could spend less of each dollar on wages and distribute more in profits and executive pay.

Growing numbers of Americans are alarmed at our widening inequality, stagnant wages and narrowing opportunity. That scares the GOP and its business allies. They see themselves as victims.

Sort of like that orphan.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.