APWU Joins Workers’ Rights Demonstration at NLRB Headquarters
APWU Web News Article #42-06, July 14, 2006
Concerned about pending decisions before the National Labor Relations Board that could take away the collective bargaining rights of millions of workers, APWU officers and staff joined more than 1,500 labor activists at a spirited rally July 13 in Washington, DC.
In a gathering at NLRB headquarters a few blocks from the White House, the APWU joined teachers, miners, nurses, municipal employees, and others in denouncing recent actions by the board and in urging the panel to protect workers’ rights to be represented by a union.
The board is expected to make rulings this summer on important cases that have been pending for five years. Yet the NLRB has refused to hear oral arguments — a fundamental part of due process — since the Bush administration began. Speaking at the rally, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson asked: “How can this board make a decision that affects us without listening to all sides?”
The cases currently pending before the NLRB could strip hundreds of thousands of current union members of their rights by redefining their jobs as “supervisory.” An Economic Policy Institute report shows that a new definition could have a particularly dramatic impact in occupations in which skilled workers occasionally direct the work of employees in job classifications that require fewer skills.
For example, registered nurses who tell nurses’ aides to perform certain tasks for particular patients could be categorized as management, even though they do not have the authority “to hire, fire, discipline, evaluate, or promote the employees they supposedly supervise,” the institute report notes.
The AFL-CIO estimates that a broader classification of "supervisor" would deprive an estimated 8 million workers of their right to union representation. That figure would be in addition to the 8.6 million workers already barred from joining unions in recent years because they have been excluded from labor law coverage. Unlike other workers, supervisors do not have protected rights under national labor law to form and join unions, and employers often try to classify workers as supervisors in order to deny them the right to union representation.
“The current administration’s NLRB has been slashing workers’ rights at every turn,” said APWU President William Burrus, who attended the rally with union national officers and staff, along with the 17-member Constitution Committee, which has been meeting in Washington this week.
“The Bush labor board has already ruled against the on-the-job rights of rights of disabled employees, temporary workers and graduate students,” Burrus continued. “Now they are trying to undermine the entire labor movement by making millions of people ineligible for union representation — we must fight against this.”
The AFL-CIO and a group of 30 law professors filed separate motions yesterday to force the NLRB reconsider its refusal to hold oral arguments. The key cases are expected to affect 135 other cases now pending at the board, including 60 union representation cases.
The AFL-CIO-sponsored rally in Washington capped-off a week of protests held in 15 other large cites across the nation. To learn more about the pending NLRB decisions and what you can do to fight back, visit the AFL-CIO’s Web site.