No matter how you slice it, workers seeking fairness on the job have it tough. Unemployment, stagnant wages, and a ski-slope playing field mean it’s often one step forward, four giant somersaults back.
But it’s not Congress’ job to make it harder for workers. That’s why the Senate needs to quickly confirm President Obama’s five nominees—Republicans and Democrats—to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Blocking these board members from performing their duties is yet another extraordinary example of an obstructionist Congress not allowing our government agencies to actually do their jobs. One only has to look down Constitution Avenue toward the Department of Labor to find another — the deliberate delay in confirming Thomas Perez as the new Secretary of Labor.
There is a reason we are seeing heated debate about the need for Senate rules reform. These board vacancies, and this executive branch nomination, impacts a plethora of policies needed to protect workers and should not be tolerated.
The NLRB is the main federal agency that enforces workplace rights for private sector employees. But it has been under siege for decades, forced to limp along at reduced capacity much of the time.
It’s a cynical strategy. Since anti-labor politicians can’t be as blatant as they would like in killing workers’ rights to organize and bargain for good wages and benefits, they’ve settled on paralyzing the democratic process that workers use to exercise those rights.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was explicit when he vowed to block all of Obama’s NLRB appointments, to make the agency “inoperable.” It is a stunningly destructive attitude that goes beyond mere partisanship. And the consequences are stark.
Working people are losing their ability to form unions, settle collective bargaining stalemates or be heard on complaints about lawless, anti-union conduct by businesses. That’s what it means to make the NLRB inoperable.
The overheated battle over the confirmation of Thomas Perez as the new Labor Secretary is also an example of Washington obstructionism on steroids. It is a deliberate strategy to derail a longtime public servant and officeholder. Perez has stood up for working people, veterans and the disabled. And if he’s guilty of anything it is making sure we defend and advance civil rights and educational equity.
Most importantly, Perez kept his priorities straight during his bruising confirmation hearing when he stressed “jobs, jobs and jobs,” and told Senators:
“The mission of the Department of Labor is the mission of America…building ladders to the middle class.”
Perez should be confirmed now.
As for a fully functioning NLRB, workers seeking fairness certainly need it—and so does our democracy.