The Ed Show, 5/19/13, 5:34 PM ET

Republicans closer to dismantling labor protections

The president has been trying to staff the National Labor Relations Board, but Republicans in the Senate have blocked the confirmation of his nominations. Ed talks to New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse and the Communications Workers of...

Dispute over Labor Board demonstrates Republican obstruction

Updated

Republicans continued resistance to the Obama administration’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demonstrates a real threat to the rights of millions of hardworking Americans.

NLRB, the independent agency of the U.S. government that protects the rights of American workers to organize and to “prevent and remedy unfair labor practices” hasn’t had a fully staffed five-member board for a decade now. (A quorum of three members is required for the panel to issue decisions in labor disputes.) Republicans keep blocking President Obama’s appointments. And last week, a second an appeals court said the president can’t make recess appointments to the board either.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont described Republican opposition as part of a long-term strategy by Republicans to make it harder on the middle class.

“The minority is doing everything they can in this case to make it impossible for working people who are on the job to have their rights protected,” Sanders said at May 16 confirmation hearing. “So that tomorrow, if some fella out there, some woman tries to organize a union and gets fired against the law, that worker will have no recourse.”

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, says a vital NLRB is critical to 80 million American workers.

“Not just [for] union workers, but [also for] workers who speak out in places like Starbucks or McDonald’s; fast food workers,” Cohen told The Ed Show. “If they speak out and are fired or intimidated in any way, the only place they have to go is the NLRB. That’s really what`s at stake here.”

Cohen says the only way to fix the NLRB is fillibuster reform where Majority Leader Harry Reid would get 50 votes and get a full complement of five members on the board.

Steven Greenhouse, the labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, agrees.

“Because Republicans are apparently going to block confirmation of the nominees, the board will not have a quorum to function,” Greenhouse told The Ed Show. “So the workers are kind of left without a real remedy.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Wednesday approved Obama’s five nominees to the NLRB ((full disclosure: one of the nominees is related to a staffer on The Ed Show), splitting along party lines. The confirmation process now moves to the full Senate.

“I will be very distraught if we do not seat them because of another filibuster,” say Sanders.

Dispute over Labor Board demonstrates Republican obstruction

Updated