Rep. John Kline: NLRB is a runaway board and my bill is the way to rein it in

On a conference call with bloggers this afternoon, Congressman John Kline (R-Minn.) pinned the blame on President Obama for an out-of-control National Labor Relations Board and urged his colleagues in Congress to pass the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, which would address certain disastrous NLRB decisions.

“President Obama — this is his board,” Kline said. “He is supporting this if he’s not willing to step in there and help put some reins on what I think is a runaway board.”

In recent weeks, the NLRB has rushed to pass a rule that would shorten the unionization election process. Snap elections would allow union representatives ample time to make the case for unionization, but limit the amount of time business representatives would have to make the case against unionization. Kline’s Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act would ensure that no union election takes place less than 35 days after it is called, restoring to workers their right to hear both sides of the story.

In a similar move to favor unions, the NLRB has also adopted a new standard by which to decide what constitutes a collective bargaining unit (i.e. what group of employees participates in the vote to unionize). Think of this as gerrymandering union elections: Under the new standard, virtually any number and any combination of employees could constitute a collective bargaining unit, allowing unions to define the unit as those employees most likely to vote in favor of unionization. The new standard would also mean a company would have to collectively bargain with multiple micro-unions, which would further hike labor costs. Kline’s bill would reinstate the traditional standard, one born of “years of careful consideration and Congressional guidance,” according to the website of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which Kline chairs.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act will likely reach the floor of the House of Representatives sometime in the next few days. In the House, Kline expects it will have broad Republican support, as well as support from at least a handful of Democrats. But, even if it passes the House, it will likely struggle in the Senate, despite Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) push for a companion piece of legislation.

That means the most feasible means by which to stop the NLRB from actually implementing its partisan rules remains the resignation of the lone GOP member of the NLRB, which would leave the board without a quorum and unable to vote to finalize the new regulations. If that happened, Kline said he would certainly be supportive of his colleagues in the Senate blocking the confirmation of any additional member Obama might appoint to the NLRB.

“I certainly would not like to see a repeat of what we’ve seen here with the likes of [Democratic member] Craig Becker on the board,” Kline said. “We know that over history the board swings back and forth, but I think this is unprecedented, this rush to jam through things. … If that’s what we’re going to get, I would urge my Senate colleagues not to confirm a placement.”

In the meantime, Kline’s bill remains an important reminder that Congress ought to have oversight of regulations, which have essentially become a means for the executive branch to legislate. As Kline put it, the NLRB’s rule-making comes amidst “a blizzard of regulations … coming from virtually every department and agency.” The NLRB might be among the worst, but it’s hardly the only rogue rule-maker.