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Stop fighting and start working!

September 13th, 2011  |  Matt Pavich

Sometime this week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to hold a vote on the Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587), which would prohibit the NLRB from ordering any employer to relocate, shut down, or transfer a business under any circumstance. The bill, which would prevent the Board from issuing a remedial order requiring employers to either restore or reinstate “any work, product, production line, or equipment,” is a clear response to the complaint filed against The Boeing Company over its decision to place a production line in a non-union facility over strike concerns. The bill also would prevent the Board from rescinding any “relocation, transfer, subcontracting, outsourcing, or other change regarding the location,” or requiring an employer to make “an initial or additional investment at a particular plant, facility, or location.” The law would apply to all cases that have yet to reach final adjudication by the Board.

Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) contended that the punitive legislation is essential to protecting the national economy. “The public did not elect 535 idle spectators; they sent men and women to Washington with a mandate to make jobs a national priority,” said Kline. “Republicans refuse to allow federal bureaucrats to reverse the business decisions of employers,” he said.

The bill has strong support among the business community, with the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on record as supporting the bill. It also, predictably, as detractors, especially among unions. But the real question, as the House prepares to hold a vote that will almost certainly pass is, what happens next?

Barring any change of heart from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the bill is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Senate. Even if it should pass the Senate, President Barack Obama would be expected to veto the bill during a campaign season in which he will need every ounce of labor support. But the bill itself underlines a deep and troubling schism between the Board and its Congressional overseers, one that threatens any move towards job creation and labor harmony.

The House and Senate Republicans clearly believe that after Labor’s cherished Employee Free Choice Act fell by the wayside, the President decided to use the Board to effect some of the goals of that bill. They also see a Board that, in their view, has injected itself into employer-employee relations. The Board, if former Chairman Wilma Liebman’s recent comments are any indication, is chafing at the criticism it has received and the perceived interference in its operations. The result appears to be a situation in which the Board acts, the House Republicans react and tensions are further inflamed.

Isn’t there a better way? Obviously, communication between the two major parties has broken down. But if an executive agency cannot do its business without spurring fears of overreaction which, in turn, lead to legislation to stop that business, what hope is there for any agreement on vital jobs creation legislation? Consider this a plea for the President and Congressional Republicans to set aside their partisan rancor and to have a calm, reasoned conversation about the problems facing this country. Because, as it stands, one hand is fighting the other and nothing is getting done.