Republicans File Bill to Strip Any Power of the
National Labor Relations Board
Trump has been leading an anti-union effort
By Benjamin Locke
The Washington Journal, July 20, 2017
The creation of the National Labor Relations Board under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the late 1930’s is what has made it possible for worker’s unions to force companies to accept representation, and the Republicans have been battling to kill it ever since.
Now, with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, a gaggle of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate have introduced a bill to defang the NLRB forever.
The sponsors – all among the most far right wing, reactionary conservatives in the Senate- probably feel when it comes to the NLRB, they will get support from most Republicans.
It is almost certain that the Democrats, with only a few exceptions, will be very opposed to this bill.
A similar bill was introduced in the House in April by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who also introduced it in the last two sessions of Congress. It has yet to make it out of committee.
Sen. Lee has also been trying to take the powers of the NLRB away for years. He introduced a somewhat similar bill in 2015 when Republicans were complaining that under President Obama the NLRB had become too activist.
“For far too long the NLRB has acted as judge, jury and executioner, for labor disputes in this country,” Lee said in a 2015 press release. “The havoc they have wrought by upsetting decades of established labor law has cost countless jobs. This common sense legislation would finally restore fairness and accountability to our nation’s labor laws.”
Lee this week recycled the same quote for the new effort.
Whether this bill gets traction or not, Trump has been leading an anti-union effort, while a number of states with Republicans in power have also gone after the unions.
This week a Senate committee held hearings on the confirmation of one of two Trump nominees to fill the five seats on the NLRB. Both nominees are corporate lawyers who if confirmed will give the commission a pro-corporate, anti-union tilt for the first time in many years.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS), who has been an advocate to keep unions strong, raised serious issues about whether Trump nominee William Emanuel will stand up for worker’s rights. She noted that he has worked for years at Littler Mendelson, which she called, “one of the most ruthless union-busting law firms in the country.”
Warren also had issues with another anti-union corporate attorney Trump has nominated, Marvin Kaplan. She voted against both but they were approved by the committee thanks to the Republican majority.
If Lee’s bill gets traction in the Trump era, it would be another blow to the American labor movement, which is already nearly down for the count.
As of 2016, there were just over 14 million union members in the U.S. down from almost 18 million in 1983. The percentage of workers in unions has fallen from over 20 percent in 1983 to barely 10 percent in 2016 and is still dropping.
A lot of those are workers in the public sector – government – where it has been harder to kill unions or move jobs to states where there is an anti-union attitude – which includes most of the deep South.
If you look only at workers who are unionized in private companies, that represents only about 78 percent of the American work force, which is down to a level not seen since the 1930s before there was an NLRB.
By comparison, union member ship in the private sector in Germany is over 18 percent, in Canada over 27 percent and in Iceland over 85 percent, the highest in the world.
Since the Reagan years, unions and workers have been fighting a losing battle. Big companies have consolidated, moved jobs overseas and fought unions at every turn. Under Democrats, there was some return fire. Under Republicans, the unions have been left bloodied and bowed.
At present, the U.S. has the worst income inequality in the spread of wealth in history. The richest people hold a huge percentage of the nation’s wealth, and get even more year by year.
Today, the top one percent earn an average of $1.3 million a year, according to CNN Money. That is three times more than in the 1980s, when the rich made $428,000 on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.
The average worker in 1980 made $21,000 a year and today makes $25,000 a year.
The richest one percent made $344,000 a year in 1980 and today make $1 million a year.
In 1970, the top one percent earned 10 percent of the money in the U.S. Today, they earn over 20 percent.
The bottom 50 percent of workers earned 20 percent of the money in the 1970s and today barely earn 12 percent of the wealth.
If you were born in 1940, there was a 92 percent chance you would earn more than your parent. If you were born in 1960, that was down to 62 percent. If you were born in 1980, that is down to a 50 percent chance and it has been dropping ever since.
What unions did was guarantee a fair wage for workers, which allowed the U.S. to grow a healthy middle class, especially in the years right after World War II. Those workers then were good consumers, good neighbors and active in politics, culture, and society.
Today, big companies dominate and the two remaining unions of any size, led by the AFL-CIO, struggle just to keep alive, and to get workers a fair share of the profits.
With a few exceptions, it is a losing fight.
If Senator Lee and his gang of four have their way, unions in the ring of American life will not only be bloody and woozy, they will be on the mat permanently.
Under Trump, who is the friend of the rich, powerful and big business – no matter what populist rhetoric he spewed to get elected – this bill to cripple the NLRB would get signed if the backers can get it passed.
That may be good for big companies, the super rich and Trump’s friends and backers, but it will add to the terrible inequality in the way wealth is shared in America, and that is a formula that leads to social disruption and worker revolts.
And under the Republicans, that would produce an even greater over reaction of police, military and official efforts to put down anyone who doesn’t toe the line.
The NLRB for generations has acted as as a power broker that can level the playing field between big rich greedy corporations and their workers. If it is stripped of its power, it would lead to even worse income inequality and be another sign that the current government really cares only for the wealthy.
Blue collar workers who voted for Trump for whatever reasons were actually voting against their own self-interest, and this bill, and Trump’s efforts, are making it worse.
So get ready for another battle on an unequal field where the rich and powerful do all they can to further destroy one of the few institutions left that lets the rest of us have a real piece of the American pie.