The Senate has the opportunity now to reverse the trend of an activist National Labor Relations Board and bring stability to our nation's workplaces by voting on two nominees who will fill long-vacant openings on the board.
Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel, President Trump's nominees to the NLRB, are eminently qualified to be confirmed. Their confirmation can help restore the board to its intended purpose.
For more than 80 years, the NLRB — created by the National Labor Relations Act to act impartially, resolve labor disputes and ensure stable labor relations — has been important to workers and employers alike.
The board hasn't had a full five members in nearly two years – one seat has been open for 23 months since former President Obama declined to nominate a Republican for the then-minority seat and the other seat for 11 months.
We need a full board – and I'm certainly not the only one who thinks so.
Then-chairman of the Senate labor committee Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in September 2014: "Keeping the NLRB fully staffed and able to do its work will send a strong message to the American people that yes, Washington can work, and our government can function. It will give certainty to businesses and assure workers that someone is looking out for their rights and ready and able to enforce our Nation's labor laws."
These remarks were echoed by four other Democratic senators who are currently members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
My hope is that Kaplan and Emanuel will help restore some balance to the labor board.
While board partisanship didn't start under the last administration, it did become much worse.
A Wall Street Journal editorial, quoting a report by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and Littler's Workplace Policy Institute, found that under the previous administration the NLRB "upended 4,559 total years of established law."
These legal whipsaws create confusion for employers, employees, and unions. It does not serve the intent of the law, which is stable labor relations and free flow of commerce.
Here's what we're talking about: Imagine that you are one of the 700,000 Americans who own and run your own franchise. Successfully operating a franchise business is one of the most important ways to climb the ladder of success. In 2015, the NLRB issued a decision creating a new "joint-employer" standard that discourages companies from franchising. It was the biggest attack on the opportunity for small-business men and women to make their way into the middle class in years.
Or take the board's ambush election rule that hurts both employees and employers. The rule means union organizers can force an election in as little as 11 days, before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on. The rule forces employers to hand over an employee's personal information, such as email addresses and work locations, so union organizers can track them down, regardless of whether the employee would prefer to have his or her privacy protected.
I look forward to the Senate voting this week to begin righting the board.
My hope is that filling the open seats on the NLRB will restore the board to its intended purpose of acting as a neutral umpire after years of playing the role of advocate.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. You can follow him on Twitter: @SenAlexander
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