Assault on NLRB Threatens Vital Workplace Protections

The all-out assault on National Labor Relations Board is threatening vital on-the-job protections for millions of California workers.

The NLRB is the sole agency responsible for enforcing federal labor law and protecting the rights of 80 million private sector employees nationwide. But, unless the Senate majority acts to confirm all five nominations to the NLRB before the August recess, the right to organize and bargain, the right to labor law protections, and the right to free speech in the workplace will all be in jeopardy.

CWA President Larry Cohen told reporters on a conference call yesterday that if obstruction continues, Democratic lawmakers can and must act to reform the Senate rules.


It's up to the Democratic majority in the Senate and the Senate leadership to move forward, particularly on what should be a narrow issue of getting the president's nominees confirmed. The Senate majority must act in July.

In California, the NLRB has recently come to the aid of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who were unlawfully reprimanded for using JPL’s internal email system to discuss the implications of a recent Supreme Court ruling in their workplace.

Robert M. Nelson, a now-retired JPL scientist who was involved in the case:

Without the support of the National Labor Relations Board, Caltech would have been free to issue a gag order against all communications between employees – a truly bizarre situation for Caltech which prides itself as a research institute dedicated to free and open inquiry.

The board has protected free speech online, ordering clothing store Bettie Page to reinstate employees who had been illegally fired for discussing work conditions on Facebook. At a Dole Fresh Vegetables packing plant, the NLRB settled the case of a longtime employee who was fired after raising safety concerns on behalf of his workers, winning back his job with full back pay.

Robert England, a CWA Local 9416 activist from Bakersfield, traveled to Washington, DC, last week DC to lobby the offices of Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to confirm all five NLRB nominees.

Said England:

The NLRB is what protects workers’ right to join together to improve their lives at work, whether it’s our wages or safety on the job. Because of the NLRB, employers can’t get away with lashing out and penalizing workers – whether they’re in a union or not – for exercising this right. That’s why it’s so important to workers. Even as recently as a couple weeks ago, we have a case that we need to hear back from the NLRB on something as basic as wearing our union shirts at work. I’m happy to say although we haven’t gotten anything back on it yet, we are still proudly wearing our union red shirts on Thursdays.

Cases like these and more will never get justice with a hollowed-out NLRB.

Cohen stressed that non-union workers file on average 4,500 cases each year to the NLRB.

Really this is the key for anyone who wants to speak up, anyone who wants to ask a question about what's happening at work. They have no protection otherwise.