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Thursday, July 21, 2011

House Committee Passes Corporate Pardon Bill

Today the House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up and passed H.R. 2587, which Republicans are calling the "Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act." It might be more accurate to call it the "Corporate Pardon Bill."

Written less than 48 hours before the committee meeting, the bill specifically targets the National Labor Relations Board's ability to sanction corporations that retaliate against workers who have exercised their right to organize.

If passed into law, the bill would prevent the NLRB from regulating the relocation of corporate operations—a crucial regulatory function established by the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. The NLRB's authority to essentially "undo" retaliatory moves by corporations is one of the key ways the agency protects workers' rights and Americans' jobs.

Nearly as troubling as the bill's content is its timing: the bill directly targets ongoing litigation in which the NLRB is suing Boeing for discrimination against unionized workers. The facts of the case are being presented to an administrative law judge, where both Boeing and the workers will be given the opportunity to put forth evidence. The complaint that was registered with NLRB alleges that Boeing moved part of its operation from Washington to South Carolina in retaliation against a strike by workers at the Washington plant. H.R. 2587 becomes law, the NLRB will not be able to sanction Boeing, leaving the Washington workers without any recourse to get their jobs back.

The Democrats on the committee raised several important concerns with the bill. They argued that it would undermine workers’ rights. H.R. 2587 would take away an important remedy workers have when corporations relocate their jobs in order to avoid dealing with unions. Democrats also argued that the bill would take away the NLRB’s ability to keep corporations from sending jobs overseas. Some even questioned whether the bill was worth the committee’s time, asserting that the committee ought to be more focused on creating jobs instead of protecting corporations' ability to unfairly move jobs. Another concern was that the committee ought not to interfere with the ongoing judicial and law-enforcement process by passing this bill; doing so would be a violation of the separation of powers.

Ultimately, the majority-Republican committee voted to favorably report the bill, adding one amendment that changed the wording to clarify Congressional intent. The vote was split along party lines.

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