By a party-line vote of 26-20, the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee passed a bill that would significantly alter the definition of “supervisor” in the health care and construction industries. The bill would limit the definition of supervisor set forth in Section 2(11) of the National Labor Relations Act and limit the effect of three decisions of the National Labor Relations Board that have been dubbed the “Kentucky River Cases” (after a Supreme Court decision that rejected the Board’s narrowed interpretation of the definition of supervisor) and the “Oakwood Cases” (after the lead Oakwood Healthcare case). In these decisions, the Board applied a broader interpretation of the term than it had prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Kentucky River, and determined that charge nurses were supervisors and, therefore, excluded from the bargaining unit and ineligible to vote in a union certification election. The Board ultimately held that workers who regularly direct co-workers on workplace tasks at least 10 percent of the workday could be considered supervisors, even if they had no authority to discipline or reward the employees.

The bill–the Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction and Tradeworkers (RESPECT) Act (H.R. 1644)–would amend Section 2(11) of the NLRA by requiring that an employee spend a majority of his or her time in a supervisory status to be classified as a supervisor, and would delete the terms “assign” and “responsibly to direct” from the definition of supervisor. According to its authors, the bill would make clear that nurses, construction workers, and others who assign tasks to less experienced workers, but who lack the authority to discipline or reward those workers, would not be considered supervisors.

The bill now moves to the full House of Representatives for a vote. Senators Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced the same bill in the Senate in May.