House Passes Funding Measure for Labor Department, EEOC, NLRB

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By Tyrone Richardson

House lawmakers Sept. 14 passed a spending measure package that includes funding for the Labor Department, the NLRB, the EEOC, and related agencies.

The House voted 211-198 for the minibus bill (H.R. 3354) which includes FY 2018 discretionary spending reductions for the DOL and National Labor Relations Board. The bill package also includes a separate measure, a Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill ( H.R. 3267) that funds the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at $363.8 million for fiscal 2018, nearly unchanged from the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

H.R. 3354 will eventually have to be reconciled with the Senate version, which has some differences, including no labor-related policy riders and less funding cuts for some agencies, including the DOL.

The minibus is a combination of several funding bills, including the House Labor-HHS bill ( H.R. 3358), which cuts DOL spending to $10.8 billion for the new fiscal year. The Labor-HHS bill sets the NLRB’s funding at $249 million, which is $25 million less than the current fiscal year.

The Senate’s Labor-HHS bill ( S. 1771), however, would keep NLRB funding unchanged from the FY 2017 level and reduce the DOL’s budget by $61.5 million to $12 billion. The Senate Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill ( S. 1662) would have EEOC discretionary spending unchanged from FY 2017, practically mirroring the House measure.

NLRB Funding Cut Rejected

House lawmakers Sept. 13 voted 241-175 against an amendment by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) that would have slashed NLRB funding to $150 million from the $274 million for the current fiscal year.

The NLRB’s budget should be reduced because of a decrease in labor union activity in recent years, Grothman, also a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said during floor debate late Sept. 13. Labor union membership rates have declined in recent years to about 6 percent of the workforce.

“My amendment would implement a necessary reduction to the NLRB, which will bring their funding in line with their expected work load for the upcoming fiscal year,” Grothman said. “Specifically my amendment saves taxpayers close to $100 million in the upcoming fiscal year and provides private industry with relief that the NLRB will have to focus on the most pressing cases that arise, rather than engaging in partisan witch-hunts.”

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) argued that the reduction in spending would force furloughs and create a backlog of cases for the NLRB, adding that “most of the NLRB’s work is not controversial.”

“For cases taken to the board, about 70 percent of the decisions are unanimous. Meaning they are bipartisan,” Clark said. “That is how the process is supposed to work. Why would we cripple an agency that’s tasked with enforcing federal labor laws? Does the majority believe that labor laws should not be enforced? Should a worker who is unlawfully fired for exercising their rights be met with a sign on the door that says closed?”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the Workforce committee, had similar thoughts.

“When you cut staff, less can be done,” Scott told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 13. “There are already too many delays in fulfilling the NLRB mission such as making sure you have time for elections and making sure any complaints are resolved, and cutting staff just makes it more difficult.”

‘Ambush Election Rule’ Adopted

The House Sept. 13 approved a separate amendment introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) that would block the NLRB’s recent union election process changes, dubbed by Republicans as the “ambush election rule.”

Republicans and employer advocates have argued that the streamlined election process, initiated during the Obama administration, tilts rules in favor of labor unions.

The House late Sept. 12 adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would increase funding for Job Corps by $16 million, which sets its budget to its FY 2017 level.

The House also Sept. 12 approved by voice vote a provision that would restrict funding to merge the EEOC and the DOL’s contractor compliance office. This marked the latest congressional action aimed at thwarting the Trump administration’s proposed budget earlier this year that sought to merge the two agencies. Senate appropriators last week rejected the administration’s proposed merger plan.

The measure also includes several policy riders to roll back various Obama-era NLRB decisions. It would also halt enforcement of the DOL’s fiduciary rule, an Obama-era regulation on financial adviser conflicts of interest.

Passage of the Labor-HHS bill with such riders Sept. 14 was lauded by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the Education and Workforce Committee.

“Through the appropriations process, the House advanced several policy priorities of the Committee on Education and the Workforce that open doors for students and empower workers, and I am pleased these priorities had the attention of the whole House with this bill,” Foxx said in a written statement provided to Bloomberg BNA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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