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The NLRB Makes the Case Against Itself

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Summary of Operations for fiscal year 2012, released last week, shows an agency that is significantly over-funded. In 2010, the Obama Administration increased the agency’s budget even though it previously operated with a fiscal year-end surplus. Now, the operating report reveals that the agency’s business continues to erode with the decline of unionization in the private sector making its increased appropriation even more unnecessary than it was in 2010.


According to the report, issued by Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, total case intake decreased by three percent; unfair labor practice case intake decreased by 2.5 percent; representation case intake decreased by 6.5 percent; and petitions filed in certification and decertification cases decreased by 5.7 percent.

So while federal government spending is at an unsustainable level, the NLRB is receiving taxpayer funds it does not need. Considering that this Board has boldly ignored its obligation to be neutral on the question of unionization and has issued job-killing decision after job-killing decision, why should the American taxpayer continue to subsidize its operations much less over subsidize them?

For example, the Board overturned long-standing precedent and authorized the creation of small bargaining units called “micro-unions” – some as small as two or three members – which threaten to balkanize the workplace and undermine collective bargaining. While unsaid, the NLRB’s reason: it is easier to persuade a smaller number of people to vote for the union than it is a larger number.

Obama’s Labor Board also promulgated an “ambush” election rule, which cuts roughly in half the time for an election. If ever implemented the rule will limit the ability of employers to secure legal counsel and express their views on unionization to their employees. And it will deprive employees of their right to hear their employer’s views and make an informed choice. Fortunately, a U.S. District Court judge declared the rule was unlawful. The rule was promulgated by two Board members who in their haste to serve the interests of Big Labor bosses did not wait for the vote of the third member, which was necessary for the government agency to have a quorum to act.


The operating report also shows, once again, that the “ambush” election rule is as unnecessary as it is misguided. According to the report, Board elections take place in a remarkably timely fashion: “93.9% of all initial elections were conducted within 56 days of the filing of the petition” and “initial elections in union representation elections were conducted in a median of 38 days from the filing of the petition.”

But there are still other reasons to question the level of the NLRB’s appropriation. The Board is currently operating with three members of the same political party without the constraint imposed by a former long-standing practice that required a Board of at least four members to issue a major decision. That practice, followed with rare exception since 1947, added credibility to major Board decisions because it assured participation in the decision of a member from the minority party. The practice was discontinued by current Chairman Mark Pearce and former Chairman Wilma Liebman in a 2010 decision in which they denied that the practice ever existed.

Also, one of the three NLRB members, Richard Griffin, is enmeshed in controversy over his former role as general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). According to Fox News, “[t]he rap sheet for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers reads like something out of ‘Goodfellas.’ Embezzlement. Wire fraud. Bribery. That’s just scratching the surface of crimes committed by the IUOE ranks.”


Griffin was recently named as a defendant in a federal racketeering lawsuit. According toThe Wall Street Journal, the complaint “describes a ‘scheme to defraud [the local] out of revenue, cost savings and membership,’ by means of kickbacks, bribery, violent threats and extortion. The suit names dozens of IUOE officials as defendants, and Mr. Griffin is highlighted in a section describing embezzlement and its subsequent hush-up.”

In sum, there are ample reasons for lawmakers in Washington to follow through on their rhetoric to pare down the size of government. Reducing the appropriation given an over-funded, out-of-control National Labor Relations Board is a logical place to start.

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