The House Education and Workforce Committee recently held three hearings on ‘labor’ related topics. Below is a concise summary with embedded links.
Hearing: NLRB (National Labor Relations Board)
The House Ed & Workforce’s HELP Subcommittee recently held a hearing regarding the NLRB: “Emerging Trends at the National Labor Relations Board”. The purpose of this hearing was to provide a broad overview of the board’s history and authority, as well as discusses recent actions taken by the board that suggest a more activist approach to its interpretation of the law governing relations between employers and union representatives. The impetus of this hearing stems from Obama’s nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Craig Becker in Spring 2010 to the Board of the NLRB. Becker’s recess appointment (and re-nomination) is highly controversial and was strongly opposed by the business community (ie: Chamber, NAM, etc). With the change in Congress, the issue of Card Check has fallen off the legislative agenda. The expressed concerns over Becker’s membership to the Board centers on the question of whether or not this is a path for “board activism” on behalf of organized labor: back-door card check and other recent “rulings or requirements” which are greatly skewed in favor of unions (ie: banners/neutral employers, expanding jurisdiction, secret ballots, etc). In short, the business vs labor debate over card-check and other key related issues may likely shift from Congress to the NLRB. There will likely be continued oversight of the NLRB via hearings, FOIA, and other formal inquiries.
The House Ed & Workforce Subcommittee on Workplace Protections held a hearing: “Investigating OSHA’s Regulatory Agenda and its Impact on Job Creation”. The purpose of the hearing was to explore the impact of OSHA’s regulatory agenda and recent policies on job creation. The panel included industry stakeholders including stakeholders for business and victim advocates. The impetus of this hearing was the Administration’s re-interpretation of the Noise Exposure standard whereby employers would be required to abate noise hazards with engineering controls instead of relying on personal protective equipment. The hearing also sought to review the Agency’s rule on ergonomic injury reporting requirements. Both items received strong opposition from stakeholders and were formally withdrawn in order to solicit small business feedback on the rules. The centerpiece of the hearing was on reinforcing the importance of the Agency utilizing the SBREFA and other opportunities to collect such information in order to enhance the rulemaking process. The Administration had earlier released its budget for FY2012 which, coupled with the concurrent spending level debates over the CR for FY2011, instigated some debate over program funding priorities at OSHA. The (sub)committee for Ed & Workforce is expecting to conduct additional oversight (hearings, formal inquiries, and possibly FOIAs) in its efforts to ensure proposed regulations protect employees while also not impacting job creation.
Hearing: Department of Labor
The full House Ed & Workforce committee held a hearing with Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis: “Policies and Priorities at the Department of Labor”. The purpose of the hearing was to explore recent Department policies and review its priorities which may or may not be hampering job creation. More specifically, the committee focused much attention on the President’s proposed budget for 2012; the administration’s rolling back disclosure requirements that allow workers to understand how their union dues are being spent; denying workers’ access to high-quality investment advice regarding their 401(k) plans; and adopting an approach to workplace safety that focuses on punishing employers rather than promoting prevention. The Department’s key messages were related to emphasizing their commitment to job training, worker safety and health protections, and protecting worker wages.