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The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce March 20 approved a bill that would require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to stop all activity that requires a three-member quorum until the legal disputes involving the board are resolved. 

On Jan. 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found President Obama’s early 2012 “recess” appointments of two members to the NLRB to be unconstitutional, potentially invalidating all NLRB rules and decisions issued over the past year because the board did not have a quorum. On March 12, the NLRB announced it intends to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.

If passed into law, the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (H.R. 1120), would restrict the NLRB until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling or a quorum is confirmed by the Senate. Specifically, the bill would: 

  • prevent the NLRB from issuing more decisions;
  • cease any enforcement of existing decisions issued since Jan. 4, 2012, and ensure those decisions are reviewed and approved by a constitutionally valid NLRB panel as soon as one is seated;
  • preserve workers’ ability to petition for union elections; and
  • allow NLRB regional offices to continue accepting and processing unfair labor practice charges. 
The original lawsuit against the appointments was brought by Noel Canning, a Washington state bottling company. The ABC-led Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) intervened in the case arguing that because the Senate was not in session when the recess appointments were made, they are unconstitutional. Forty-two Republican Senators and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed amicus briefs echoing that argument and the D.C. appeals court agreed.

After the D.C. appeals court issued its ruling Jan. 25, NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce defiantly stated the board “will continue to perform [its] statutory duties and issue decisions,” and Obama re-nominated two of the controversial recess appointees for consideration by the Senate. 

These actions prompted ABC to call on Congress to restrain the NLRB because the board seemed unlikely to impose any restraint on itself.

Before the vote by the Committee on Education and the Workforce, ABC sent another letter reiterating its position that this legislation is necessary.

“Neither the administration nor the NLRB has responsibly addressed this uncertainty in the wake of the Noel Canning decision,” ABC wrote. “In fact, both have doubled down on their respective positions. ABC commends the committee for its attention to this important issue, applauds the reasonable manner in which H.R. 1120 was crafted and urges its immediate passage.”