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Senate Republicans Unveil Bill to Weaken Federal Labor Arbiter

Bill comes after Biden purged NLRB of Trump appointees

Mike Lee
Mike Lee / Getty Images
• March 23, 2021 4:30 pm

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Republican senator Mike Lee (Utah) reintroduced legislation Monday to weaken a major labor arbitration board that has become embroiled in legal challenges after President Joe Biden purged the board of GOP appointees.

The Protecting American Jobs Act would strip the authority of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to adjudicate labor disputes between workers and union leadership. The board would also lose its ability to "promulgate rules or regulations that affect the substantive or procedural rights of any person, employer, employee, or labor organization." Lee said reforms are necessary after Biden forced out the agency's top prosecutor on Inauguration Day.

"For far too long the NLRB has acted as judge, jury, and executioner for labor disputes in this country," Lee said. "The havoc they have wrought by upsetting decades of established labor law has cost countless jobs. This common sense legislation would finally restore fairness and accountability to our nation's labor laws."

The independent board consists of five appointees and is charged with enforcing labor law with regard to relations between unions and workers.

Biden's handling of Trump appointees has opened up legal challenges against the authority of the board. As one of his first moves in office, Biden fired then-general counsel Peter Robb in an unprecedented move as Robb had 10 months left in his tenure. General counsels are typically allowed to fulfill their terms regardless of who is in power in the White House. Robb warned that Biden's moves would unnecessarily politicize the board and make it a political arm of the White House. Biden's new appointees have already withdrawn support for several challenges to major labor unions, prompting accusations of pro-union bias.

Beyond the appointments, Biden has also repeatedly voiced support for labor unions and has promised to be the most pro-union president in history. The House of Representatives also passed the PRO Act, which would be a massive reform to U.S. labor law that weakens right-to-work laws. The PRO Act's fate in the Senate is unclear.

Lee's bill has three Republican cosponsors: Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.), and Rand Paul (Ky.). Rep. Austin Scott (R., Ga.) introduced a version of the bill in the House of Representatives. Senate Republicans also introduced legislation in February that would have allowed union members to opt out of union leadership.

Lee previously introduced the legislation in 2019, but the bill did not receive a floor vote.

Published under: Mike Lee, NLRB, Unions