Unions Breathe Easier After GOP Assault On NLRB Fails

September 21, 2011 7:48 p.m.

The AFL-CIO and organized labor in general is breathing a sigh of relief after the Senate Appropriations Committee narrowly defeated — in a tie vote Wednesday night — an effort to gut the National Labor Relations Board and prevent it from filing suits against companies that move operations to right-to-work states.

After a furious last-minute AFL-CIO lobbying spree, the Senate Committee, which is split 16 to 14 Democratic voted 15 to 15 to defeat language from being attached to a bill funding the NLRB, as well as the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments.

Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC), motivated by an attempt to help Boeing, managed to convince Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) to support his efforts to add the anti-NLRB language to the larger spending bill, but in the end, a wavering Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) stuck with the Democratic party line and voted no. A tie vote in committee prevents language from being added.Graham has been leading the charge against the NLRB ever since the agency slapped Boeing with a suit earlier this year charging the defense giant with illegally retaliating against union workers in Washington state by moving a factory to South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

“If the Graham Amendment were to become law, it would be the first time since the passage of the Taft Hartley Act more than 60 years ago that Congress voted to curb the NLRB’s ability to protect working people, their rights and their jobs — all to protect one corporation,” William Samuel, director of the AFL-CIO’s Government Affairs Department, wrote in a letter to senators sent Wednesday afternoon.

The stakes were high for unions. If Graham had been successful, the move would not only have affected Boeing’s current lawsuit but would also have prevented the NLRB from protecting unionized workers from retaliation from all companies who might consider moving production lines or operations to another state in reaction to labor protests and negotiations, according to the AFL-CIO.

“Retaliating against workers for exercising their legally-protected rights, as Boeing is alleged to have done, is against the law, and has been for 75 years,” Samuels wrote. “These attacks, coming from the same crowd that wants to defund and dismantle the NLRB entirely, have nothing to do with creating jobs or helping the economy, and everything to do with political retaliation.”

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