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By Chris Opfer
July 14 — The House Appropriations Committee July 14 approved on party lines a funding bill that would block a number of Obama administration worker initiatives and slash spending for the National Labor Relations Board.
It also would undo the NLRB's decisions to expand joint employer liability under federal labor law and recognize “micro-union” representation election units, block a board rule to streamline representation election procedures, and prohibit the board from exercising jurisdiction on tribal lands.
The funding bill is unlikely to land on President Barack Obama's desk for signature, but it could help guide expected negotiations on an omnibus spending package later this year.
Riders to stop the fiduciary rule and joint employer decision were dropped from omnibus legislation late in the negotiations last year.
Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said some of the riders were meant to counteract the NLRB's “anti-business agenda.”
Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the subcommittee responsible for the bill, said the legislation “will prevent this administration from moving forward with various regulations that threaten to close down small businesses by imposing one-size-fits-all rules and costly mandates.”
The measure would trim DOL funding—proposed at $12 billion—by $138 million. It also would reduce the NLRB's discretionary spending level by more than a quarter, down to $215 million.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA July 13 there's “no chance” that Congress would pass the legislation in its current form. She said the bill “is never getting to the floor” of the House.
“It's an abomination, really, with all of the riders,” DeLauro said of the bill. “They don't belong here, they just represent people's own personal ideology.”
Michael Deich, a senior advisor at the White House Office of Management and Budget, chided appropriators in both the House and Senate for trimming the DOL's funding allotment.
“These cuts would mean fewer workers would get the wages they have earned and more workers would be exposed to serious on-the-job hazards,” Deich said via e-mail July 14.
The House bill's NLRB spending slash would cripple the board's “ability to protect workers from unlawful treatment on the job for taking action to improve their working conditions,” he said. It also would hamper the NLRB's “ability to investigate and litigate unfair labor practices and protect the right of workers to organize.”
Congress is scheduled to recess July 15 for party conventions and an annual August break. When lawmakers return in September, they will have a lengthy to-do list and little time to address it in the run up to the November elections.
Cole told Bloomberg BNA following the funding bill vote that it's probably time for the Republican leadership to start thinking about a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open for business when the next fiscal year starts in October.
Congress should look to “clear the deck,” so that a full year of funding is in place before a new president takes office in January, he said.
Cole said the tribal labor rider is among those with the strongest shot at getting into the government spending vehicle that eventually reaches the White House, because it has some bipartisan support.
The rider tracks legislation (H.R. 511, S. 2943) already passed by the House with the help of 24 Democrats and approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which would bar the NLRB from exercising jurisdiction over tribal businesses operating on Indian lands.
“I would hope that would survive and I certainly will be pushing hard for it,” Cole said of the policy rider. “I think there's even a split inside the Obama administration on this.”
The White House has said the Obama administration would back the measure only if it is amended to require tribes to adopt their own “reasonably equivalent” labor rights standards.
The House funding measure includes additional provisions intended to make it easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers through the H-2B visa program. It would allow H-2B employers to stagger workers' entry over a 120-day period and to use private wage surveys to set pay rates.
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Text of the bill is available at http://src.bna.com/gwC.
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