In a November 4 letter, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin told the House and Education and the Workforce Committee that the NLRB has no open cases proceeding solely on a theory of joint employment. This was in a response to a letter he received from congressional committees in September voicing concern over what they considered a broader and unprecedented test for joint employment. The controversial theory permits complaints of unfair labor practices against franchisers as joint employers with franchisees.
Scott Walker won re-election as Governor of Wisconsin, despite unions spending hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing him. Walker gained notoriety among the labor movement for supporting a new state law limiting the collective bargaining rights of employees. The law prompted protests, court challenges, and a union-led recall, which Walker won. Some have pointed to Walker’s victory, as well as the recent re-election of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder who signed Michigan’s right-to-work law, as evidencing organized labor’s reduced political influence in the U.S.
Republicans are likely to use committees to increase oversight of the NLRB, EEOC, and Labor Department. Congressional aides predict that Senator Lamar Alexander, who has previously criticized the NLRB as being a union advocate, will be named the HELP committee chairman. He previously introduced legislation with Senator McConnell that would expand the NLRB from five to six members and require a four-member majority to determine representation. Further, Representative John Kline from Minnesota will likely stay on for a fourth term as the House Education and Workforce Committee Chair, with Speaker Boehner granting a waiver to conference rules limiting members to three terms. At least two HELP committee seats and seven Education and the Workforce Committee seats currently held by Democrats will become available.
President Obama withdrew Sharon Block’s nomination to the NLRB after Republicans won senate control. Republicans had previously urged Block to step down from the NLRB when the validity of her 2012 recess appointment was challenged. Ultimately, her appointment was held invalid in the Supreme Court’s Noel Canning decision, and she left the NLRB in August of 2013. After withdrawing Block’s name, President Obama nominated Senate lawyer Lauren McFerran, who has served as chief labor counsel for the Senate HELP Committee since 2010.