WASHINGTON -- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted a Republican bill designed to cripple the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), calling the legislation "an outsourcer's bill of rights" and part of a larger attack on organized labor on Monday.
The bill, introduced by Republicans earlier this summer, would forbid the NLRB from ordering a company to relocate or transfer any business even when that company violates labor law, effectively neutering the 77-year-old independent federal agency.
The bill is aimed at scuttling a controversial complaint filed by the board's acting general counsel against the Boeing Company this spring, although it's part of conservatives' larger attack on the board in the wake of several rulings seen as pro-union.
"This is sweeping legislation that would gut [American labor law]," Trumka said of the Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act, during a conference call with reporters. "This legislation won't create jobs, while it's clear the bill would change the rules to help a major campaign donor: Boeing."
Trumka warned that the legislation would take away the board's ability to protect workers when companies illegally transfer or subcontract work. "Working people play by the rules," he added. "So should business."
Republicans and business groups have been fiercely critical of the labor board during Obama's presidency, accusing it of catering to labor unions in the decisions and rules it's issued.
The most contentious has been the complaint against Boeing, which the board has not ruled on yet. The aerospace manufacturer is accused of breaking the law by establishing a production line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. The board's counsel alleged that the move was retaliation against Boeing's unionized workers in Washington State for having gone on strike in the past. The complaint has put Boeing's plans in South Carolina on hold for the time being.
But Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas, said the complaint was "not remarkable," and that the bill drafted by Republicans in response amounts to an attack on workers.
"The bill would essentially strip the board of its power to remedy unfair labor practices," said Getman, who participated in Trumka's call. "I have made a living being critical of the NLRB, but we absolutely need the NLRB if the rights of worker are to be protected."
Getman said he had drafted a letter in opposition to the Republican bill that more than 240 labor law experts have signed on to in a matter of days. He also said that "routine" decisions coming from the board had been "radicalized" by Republicans.
When they introduced their bill in July, House Republicans accused the labor board of threatening American jobs by meddling in corporate decision-making. They also said their bill would "provide employers with the certainty they need to invest in our economy and put Americans back to work, right here at home."
In a statement, a spokesman for bill co-sponsor John Kline (R-Minn.) said Trumka was spreading "misinformation."
“The committee has received testimony that describes the chilling effect the NLRB’s action against Boeing is already having upon employers, and manufacturers have reported that the complaint will negatively impact their hiring decisions," spokesman Brian Newell said in an email. "The NLRB may have faithful friends in Big Labor, but House Republicans continue to stand by the nation’s workers and job-creators."
Patrick Bertucci, a unionized Boeing worker who puts wings on 747s in Washington State, told reporters Monday that he was "proud" of the NLRB for filing the complaint.
"If the NLRB is not allowed to proceed with this case, we'll all be a in lot of trouble," Bertucci said.