Wednesday, December 21, 2011


House blocks presidential recess appointments, would you believe… who actually is running our government?

The House of Representatives, this year, has devised a tactic, not previously engaged in, where they refuse to allow the Senate, by not signing the necessary papers, to go into recess. And if the Senate is not in recess, President Obama is precluded from making recess appointments.

by Larry Geller

The issue at hand, as you will read in the Democracy Now segment below, is that workers’ rights to organize may be crippled if Obama cannot make a recess appointment to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board). Senate Republicans are blocking a regular appointment, and House Republicans have figured out how to block even recess appointments.

Obama might as well take his vacation in Hawaii, it’s not clear he can do anything in Washington anyway.

Crippling the Right to Organize: GOP Inaction May Leave National Labor Relations Board Inoperable


The National Labor Relations Board, the government body that oversees labor complaints, is on the verge of being shut down. Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last year, the NLRB must have a quorum of at least three of five members in order to operate. But one member’s term expires at month’s end, and Republicans have meanwhile refused to confirm President Obama’s two replacement nominees. Unless a solution is found, the NLRB would be frozen come January. Without the NLRB, workers would lose their legal recourse to defend their right to organize and to protect themselves against anti-union activity by employers. We speak with Stanford Law School Professor William Gould, former chair of the NLRB. [includes rush transcript]

William Gould, Stanford Law School professor. He served as chair of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994 to 1998. He is the author of the memoir, Labored Relations: Law, Politics, and the NLRB.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Talk about what exactly is this threat that most people in this country know nothing about right now.

WILLIAM GOULD: Well, the National Labor Relations Board, so says the Supreme Court, has to have a quorum of three to operate. And on January 1, it will have two members, because of the fact that the Senate Republicans are blocking President Obama’s appointees to the board and also refusing to allow a recess appointment.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, first explain what the National Labor Relations Board is, why it is so important for the functioning of unions in this country, Professor Gould.

WILLIAM GOULD: Yes. Well, the National Labor Relations Board is a referee between labor and management. It protects the right of workers to join unions, not to be discriminated against on account of union activity, and it also conducts votes, which oblige employers to bargain with unions when a majority of workers support the union. All of this will go away, and workers will be completely defenseless if the board has only two members on January 1, as it looks as though will be the case at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: When was the NLRB set up? And what exactly then would happen? Why would there be no recess? Because that’s how there would be no recess appointment.

WILLIAM GOULD: Well, the National Labor Relations Board was set up in the Great Depression. It was one of President Roosevelt’s initiatives at that time, in 1935. The House of Representatives, this year, has devised a tactic, not previously engaged in, where they refuse to allow the Senate, by not signing the necessary papers, to go into recess. And if the Senate is not in recess, President Obama is precluded from making recess appointments. I should point out that this tactic—and it is a tactic that’s being employed to stifle the President—is one that has, so far as I’m aware, never been used before. Usually it’s the Senate that makes these decisions, not the House of Representatives.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Gould, you wrote in your op-ed piece in the New York Times, "Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers." Elaborate on this.

WILLIAM GOULD: Well, the National Labor Relations Board, which will, unless it has three members on January 1, go out of business for the purpose of resolving disputes between labor and management, is the agency that conducts votes, that obliges employers to bargain with unions, and which protects workers through remedies, including reinstatement and back pay, when workers are discriminated against for union activity.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think President Obama needs to do now to make this issue public? Very few people understand that this will be the first time the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board, would be unable to function.

WILLIAM GOULD: Yes. Well, the President needs to spotlight this issue. He has, of course, many things on his plate right now, but he needs to make this front and center so that the general population knows what’s at stake here. Most of this is not very well known. The labor movement hasn’t said very much about it thus far. And he needs to spotlight it. He needs to, if necessary, make this a campaign issue in 2012 to highlight the obstructionism that the House of Representatives is engaging in.

AMY GOODMAN: In a letter to the President Monday, 47—all 47 Republican senators said President Obama should allow the Senate to consider his nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. Last comment, Professor Gould?

WILLIAM GOULD: Well, the Senate certainly should consider President Obama’s nominees very quickly. At a minimum, they should allow him to make a recess appointment and not to be moved around and pressured improperly, in my view, by the House of Representatives.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Gould, I want to thank you for being with us, law professor at Stanford University, served as chair of the NLRB from 1994 to ’98, author of the book Labored Relations: Law, Politics, and the NLRB, a memoir.

Digg This


The US system of separation of powers and "checks and balances" requires a general respect from politicians of both parties. The US Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore, set aside law in order to ensure a Bush victory, which led to the appointment of more rightwing zealots to the Supreme Court. As the Court lurched to the right, earlier Republican appointees started to be viewed as "moderate," even "liberal" on the emerging political spectrum. When Obama had a chance to appoint, rather than put on young liberals a s counterweights to Roberts, Thomas, Scalia and Alito, he appointed centrists.

The Republicans in the Senate have not only demanded more say over SC appointees, they now insist on determining who Obama appoints to his own executive branch, a right previously accorded all presidents, absent obvious disqualifications.

Newt Gingrich just suggested Congress should be empowered to demand Federal judges be subpoenaed and forced to explain their rulings when the politicians disagree with the ruling. WTF? I am not always a fan of the federal courts, but the remedy is not blatant political interference in judicial independence. Especially when Congress now hosts so many reactionary blowhards more interested in appearing to give a damn than in actually solving the problems which confront us.

The Bush entourage famously, or "notoriously", asserted an extreme principle of executive authority, to the detriment of Congress and the Courts. The Napoleonic wannabe tyrants in the GOP congress now want to use their foothold there to pontificate, obfuscate and posture against imagined enemies. Heck, it worked for Joe McCarthy, why not for the new crop of semi-fascist pretenders?

But lest I allow my partisan identification to overcome all my principles, I gotta point out (and this is no news to Larry's regular readers, nor listeners to Democracy Now) that the Obama administration has embraced, even expanded upon, many of the claims for executive authority claimed by the Bush gang.But Bush and Obama are advocates of a "muscular" American imperialism. And imperialism is often (not always) at odds with internal democracy. Military adventures overseas, combined with an evermore oligarchic inequality in wealth, are in need of a strong executive and increased reliance upon state repression.

Your newspapaer should be renamed " Disapointment News"

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