Bush nominates anti-worker Labour Board Chair to serve second term

Anti-worker Robert Battista, the point man in Bush’s war on workers

Washington (5 February 2008) – U.S. President George Bush has nominated anti-worker Robert Battista, the point man in Bush’s war on workers, to another five-year term as the Chair of the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB is an agency of the U.S. government charged with administering the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA), the national labour law in the U.S. that covers almost all American workers. It conducts votes (elections) for union representation and investigates and remedies unfair labor practices.

Battista's five-year term expired in December 2007 on the heels of a string of rulings by the Board's Republican majority favoring employers and rolling back worker and labour rights. In December, Battista told a joint U.S. Senate-House hearing that he doesn't believe the primary purpose of the NLR Act is to promote collective bargaining

Some of the lowlights from the Battista Board over the last five years have been:

  • Stripping rights to organize and bargain collectively from potentially millions of workers, including professional and technical workers who might be considered supervisors, newspaper carriers, disabled janitors who receive rehabilitative services from their employers, and graduate research and teaching assistants,
  • Effectively denying union rights to temporary workers, forcing them to get the consent of both their staffing agency and temporary employer in order to organize.
  • Stifling workplace communication, by ruling that employees are not protected by the law when they e-mail about working conditions, and sanctioning broad employer bans on such communication.
  • Allowing employer bans on “off-duty fraternization,” claiming that “fraternization” just meant to hang out or date, not to get together and talk about, say, forming a union. A federal circuit court later overturned the ruling.
  • Making it harder to form a union – In twin rulings the Republican majority on the Board ruled that when workers form a union by signing cards or petitions, they are subject to pressure and thus it is not the best way to determine worker sentiment. However, the Board also ruled that an employer could decertify a union when presented with a petition signed by a majority of workers—and that in this case, signed cards or petitions are a perfectly suitable demonstration of worker sentiment. They made no reference, of course, to the potential for coercion from anti-union managers or coworkers.

Along with Battista’s re-nomination, Bush has nominated a management attorney who has never represented workers, Gerald Morales, for a vacant seat on the board. Both nominations will require Senate approval and face strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney stated that, “Bush’s action is a blatant attempt to keep a Labor Board with an unbalanced, anti-worker bias, and they would be poisonous to America’s working families.”

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, blasted the move. “It’s unbelievable that President Bush would re-nominate Mr. Battista to the Board, after he led the most anti-worker, anti-labor, anti-union Board in its history. America’s hard-working men and women deserve a Board that will uphold their rights, not undermine them. With these nominations, the administration has again demonstrated its hostility to fairness and justice in the workplace.”

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