Reprinted from Slate by Mark Joseph Stern on December 19, 2o17.
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent agency tasked with “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.” Under the Trump administration, however, it appears to have adopted a new mission: to incinerate every Obama-era rule as quickly as possible.
Last week, the NLRB issued a staggering five decisions overturning union-friendly rules that the agency had either enacted or strengthened under President Barack Obama. Stacked with a majority of Republican appointees, the board scrapped policies that helped smaller unions organize, bolstered the bargaining rights of franchise employees, and shielded workers from union-busting tactics. And that’s just the start: The board’s new Trump-appointed general counsel, Peter Robb, has announced that he will move to reverse many more Obama-era decisions. This raid on precedent is extremely unusual for an independent agency. It’s also fairly predictable. The Trump administration is engaged in a full-fledged legal assault on unions that’s poised to wreak havoc on collective bargaining.
Beyond the long-term goal of upending labor law to favor employers, the NLRB has a short-term reason for its anti-union blitz. In August and September, Senate Republicans confirmed Trump’s two nominees to the five-member board. These new members, who will each serve a five-year term, joined Philip Miscimarra, a Republican whom Trump had previously chosen as chairman, to create a GOP majority. But Miscimarra’s own five-year term was set to end on December 16. After he stepped down, the board would be deadlocked 2–2 until Trump elevated another nominee (which he’ll do at some point in 2018). The NLRB’s Republicans thus had a three-month window to immolate their Democratic predecessors’ jurisprudence. …