The AFL-CIO Executive Council this week sent a clear-cut message to Senate Democrats: Empower the National Labor Relations Board, or else.
Leaders called on President Barack Obama to nominate a full package of nominees to the NLRB — five board members and a general counsel — that the Senate must swiftly confirm. They urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to do everything in his power to confirm these nominees, even if it means overhauling the Senate rules to overcome a Senate GOP filibuster.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and chairman of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s organizing committee, said in a news briefing that Senate Democrats had various options on how to get those nominees approved and "we expect you to use all the options."
Mr. Cohen warned that if Senate Republicans filibustered to block the nominations and Senate Democrats did not then adopt tougher rules to overcome filibusters, "we will mobilize and take action against the Senate Democrats like we never have before."
"We will be mobilizing across the country in every state in every one of their offices," he added.
As it stands, the NLRB is toothless. On Jan. 25, a three-judge panel of Republican appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared President Barack Obama's three recess appointments to the NLRB unconstitutional because the Senate wasn't technically recessed, only away on winter break. In knocking down three of the board's five members, the Noel Canning ruling completely vaporized the NLRB's ability to enforce U.S. labor law.
At its February meeting, the AFL-CIO Executive Council, representing 57 affiliate unions, outlined their plan of action in a statement condemning the decision, which has "seriously undermined enforcement of the law and made an already weak law even more lopsided against workers exercising their rights." It said:
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Noel Canning is unprecedented, and it is sweeping in its potential reach. By the court's logic, more than 300 recess appointments made by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Obama and both Presidents Bush were invalid — including 141 appointments made by President George W. Bush alone. It's a shocking and far-reaching decision that dramatically and painfully illustrates the consequences of Senate Republicans exploiting Senate rules to prevent President Obama from getting all but two of his nominees confirmed to the NLRB and any of his nominees confirmed to the District of Columbia Circuit.