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So called

Steven Gaal

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Sooooooooooooo Called left


Far from lacing up the comfortable shoes to walk in solidarity with American workers fighting to organize for fair treatment and collective bargaining, the Obama Administration has now smacked down the National Labor Relations Board as they fight to survive Republican budgets that would cripple the agency responsible for investigating alleged illegal practices by private sector employers and unions.

NLRB regulates a broad range of conduct, such as unlawful lockouts of workers, termination of union organizers, refusals to bargain with unions selected by workers, and unilateral changes to contract provisions covering such things as health insurance and pensions.

This March 9 HuffPo story details how the Obama Administration demanded the NLRB scrub a statement from their website defending the agency's 2011 budget -- the GOP proposal would be squeezed into the final 7 months of the fiscal year, the cuts would be felt even more deeply - representing the equivalent of one-third of remaining 2011 funding, essentially crippling the NLRB.

At a time when the Obama Administration is reportedly seeking ways to "re-connect with voters" they'd be well advised to revisit some of these policy decisions that have led to their fall from grace with the base. All it would take is showing that they're on our side...that they're willing to "be in our corner" when we really need them. Instead, we're getting a steady stream economic and political forfeitures at a time when we don't have any more yardage to concede.


NLRB: White House Muzzled Us In Budget Debate

WASHINGTON -- When House Republicans targeted the budget of the National Labor Relations Board last month, the agency shot back, warning that such cuts would force it to largely cease operations for an extended period of time, creating a backlog of thousands of cases. It was one of the few counterattacks from the Obama administration, which was otherwise busy proposing its own cuts and endorsing the Republican call for slashing spending -- and it didn't last long. The White House demanded that the NLRB scrub the statement defending the agency from its website, an NLRB spokesperson told The Huffington Post.


The Office of Management and Budget, an arm of the White House, reached out to the NLRB and told the agency to back off and take down the statement, according to the NLRB spokesperson.


The White House pushback against the NLRB would sound familiar to Wisconsin demonstrators. The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America, the group that is a remnant of Obama's '08 campaign operation, initially got strongly behind the pro-labor protests. But after the GOP criticized the White House for its involvement, an administration spokesman told The New York Times that "the White House had done nothing to encourage the demonstrations in Wisconsin," as paraphrased by reporter Jackie Calmes.

"This is a Wisconsin story, not a Washington one," Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, told Calmes. "False claims of White House involvement are attempts to distract from the organic grassroots opposition that is happening in Wisconsin."



So, here's what the White House doesn't want you to see -- that a strong National Labor Relations Board believes in its mission that working American families deserve fair treatment at a time when corporations have more power than EVER. BTW, The link to the statement, issued Feb. 18, can still be found on the website, under the heading: "Top NLRB officials respond to House budget proposal." But click through and a new statement, dated Feb. 22, appears: "The content in this statement has been removed. For further information on this subject, please see the President's Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) regarding the budget, which can be found on the OMB website."

Top NLRB officials respond to House budget proposal

The House of Representatives is expected to vote today or tomorrow on a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2011. National Labor Relations Board Chairman Wilma B. Liebman and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon issued the following statement on the impact of that proposal:

"The House of Representatives is expected to soon vote on a funding proposal that contains drastic cuts to several federal agencies, including the National Labor Relations Board. The proposal would eliminate $50 million from this small administrative agency, or 18% of its total annual budget. Because the reduction would be squeezed into the final 7 months of the fiscal year, the cuts would be felt even more deeply - representing the equivalent of one-third of remaining 2011 funding.

Nearly all of the agency's budget is spent on salaries and rents; there are no programs to eliminate or postpone. The only way to meet this extreme and immediate reduction would be to furlough all of the NLRB's 1,665 employees for 55 workdays, or nearly three months, between now and the end of September. The great majority of these employees work far from Washington D.C., in 51 local offices, where every NLRB case begins. The economic impact of this cut would be felt by families and communities in 33 states.

If enacted, the House proposal could force the NLRB to curtail all agency operations, including investigating alleged illegal practices by private sector employers and unions, conducting workplace elections, and helping to settle election-related disputes. Regulation of a broad range of conduct, such as unlawful lockouts of workers, termination of union organizers, refusals to bargain with unions selected by workers, unilateral changes to contract provisions covering such things as health insurance and pensions, unlawful strikes, picket line violence, and secondary boycotts, would be stalled if this proposal were adopted.

The delays would occur at a great cost to working people and responsible employers trying to survive in this difficult economic climate, and would have the potential to destabilize relations between labor and business. The severe cuts would also curtail the ability of the agency to restore jobs to people who were illegally fired. Charges of illegal discharges account for a significant portion of the Agency's caseload, and in just the last three years, the NLRB won 6,814 offers of reinstatement and obtained over $351 million in backpay for illegally discharged employees.

We are certainly aware of the tough economic times that all Americans are currently facing; they are reflected every day in our cases across the country. Our agency seeks to ensure that every tax dollar is well-spent, and has continually looked for efficiencies wherever possible in technology and staffing. These efforts are succeeding in achieving notable reductions in case backlogs and turnaround times while also improving case management and making more information available to the public. Rather than assist or accelerate those efforts, however, this proposal would be counterproductive, even reckless. At the end of the budget cycle, the backlog of cases would have grown, perhaps by 18,000, and turnaround times would have increased, without lasting efficiencies in return.

This proposal would have another effect: It would undercut the agency's momentum just as the Board returns to health after more than two years of vacancies, and as the Acting General Counsel spearheads a number of initiatives, including one that is bringing speedier resolution to charges of illegal discharges. The NLRB's reinvigoration was examined in a hearing called by the House majority last week, which featured critics and advocates, and underscored the long history of controversy involving this agency. Fortunately, an even more draconian House proposal that would have eliminated all NLRB funding for the remainder of the year was defeated during debate on amendments on Thursday, although it disturbingly garnered 176 votes. We hope that as the budget debate moves into the Senate, a serious discussion about these important issues will occur."

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees' rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

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Of course it's not a surprise that passing a bill through Congress allowing states to create real healthcare solutions is an uphill climb. Congress does what the insurance companies like, and the insurance companies like continuing to exist. But way back yonder in July 2009, the House Committee on Education and Labor, voted 27 to 19 with 13 Republican Yes votes to pass Congressman Dennis Kucinich's amendment to the healthcare reform bill. This amendment would not have altered the federal legislation except to allow states to create single-payer healthcare systems if they chose to. That's the one and only thing this amendment did. First among the 19 members who voted No was Committee Chairman and Democrat George Miller. Congressional staffers who knew told me that President Obama had personally told Miller to block the amendment. When the legislation that came out of Miller's committee was merged with the versions from two other House committees, the Kucinich amendment, which did not conflict with anything in any version of the bill, disappeared. Again, the word on the Hill was that Obama had told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to strip that amendment out. In fact, Pelosi said the President had asked her to do that.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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