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NLRB board vacancies could stall major labor decisions

John Dimsdale Dec 28, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: As the year ends, so will the government’s ability to enforce the nation’s labor laws. Three of the five seats on the national Labor Relations Board will become vacant this weekend. And without a quorum, the NLRB won’t be able to decide any cases.

From Washington, Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports the result will be paralysis.

John Dimsdale: The NLRB was set up in the 1930s to make sure workers aren’t punished for organizing unions, and that union elections are fair.

But Cornell University labor professor Richard Hurd says appointees to the Board have been changing.

Richard Hurd: As the Republican party has moved to the right over the past quarter of a century, the views on labor issues have become more and more market-oriented and less accepting of unionization.

Republicans in Congress are refusing to approve the president’s nominees. Wayne State University’s Michael Belzer says the Board won’t have a quorum to protect employees who’ve been fired for trying to start a union.

Michael Belzer: It’s a complete breakdown of law and order and you know we just keep going farther and farther down that road as we polarize on every conceivable issue.

He says President Obama will either have to find Board replacements acceptable to a majority in Congress, or make union rights a campaign issue in next year’s election.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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