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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Elections Matter: National Labor Relations Board

One intended consequence of winning presidential elections is the right to appoint members to the various regulatory bodies and governmental boards which oversee and enforce our laws. One such board is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Board has five Members and primarily acts as a quasi-judicial body in deciding cases on the basis of formal records in administrative proceedings. Board Members are appointed by the President to 5-year terms, with Senate consent, the term of one Member expiring each year.

And board rulings have consequences, too. To wit, Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee WI:

Palermo’s Pizza, the scene of a yearlong worker dispute, said Tuesday it had agreed to rehire eight workers with back pay and had asked the National Labor Relations Board to set a date for a union election.

We have reluctantly agreed to this settlement, despite believing that the facts strongly support our position,” Palermo President and CEO Giacomo Fallucca said in a statement.

Rather than continue to draw out the process and go to court, Fallucca said, the company agreed to the settlement “with reservation so that an election can take place.” He said the company did not admit any fault in making the negotiated settlement.

For years, Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm President Obama’s picks for the NLRB. Their hope was to do an end around the constitution by nullifying the laws that created the NLRB and gave it power to protect employee rights. They came within one month of doing so, when in August the NLRB would have no longer had any enforcement power because it would only have two members. That strategy failed when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Republican Senators that the president deserved an up-or-down vote on confirmations for these types of appointments and threatened to change Senate rules related to the filibuster. The Republicans blinked and we got our votes. Yesterday, we got our new board members:

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed all five of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, marking the first time in a decade that the agency has enjoyed a full slate of confirmed board members.[…]

The Senate confirmation places three Democrats and two Republicans on the five-member board, in keeping with the tradition of a three-member majority hailing from the president’s party. The Democrats are Mark Pearce, the current chairman; Nancy Schiffer, a labor lawyer from the AFL-CIO; and Kent Hirozawa, who’s served as chief counsel to Pearce. The Republicans are management-side labor lawyers Harry Johnson III and Philip Miscimarra.

So here is what I am hearing when I read the statement from Palermo Pizza’s CEO:

“Republicans promised us that they would never ever ever allow the NLRB to enforce any punishment against us so we ignored the law and refused to allow our employees to unionize. Today ‘we have reluctantly agreed to this settlement’ because the NLRB can now force us to obey those laws.”

Elections do Matter. The presidential election in 2012 mattered because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stated goal in 2009 of making Barack Obama a one-term president had failed. Republicans did not gain back the Senate, in fact they lost seats they were expected to win. Because Democrats voted and when we vote, we win.

The National Labor Relations Board was created by the National Labor Relations Act:

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

Here is an important paragraph from the act:

The inequality of bargaining power between employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners in industry and by preventing the stabilization of competitive wage rates and working conditions within and between industries.

The NLRA is not some kind of socialist manifesto. The intent of the act is to promote commerce by avoiding disruptive strikes and by keeping wage rates up to increase the “purchasing power of wage earners.” It codified the economic principle that when people earn money, they spend money. And when people spend money it is good for the economy, something lost on current Republicans who believe that when wealth flows up to the top 1%, those folks will take time away from designing their umpteenth vacation home (and car elevators!) and create us some jobs. No. Jobs are created when there is demand for a product or service. If there is no demand, no amount of tax breaks or relaxed regulation or outright gifts to corporations will create jobs. Put money into the hands of the the 300 million people who actually buy stuff with their wages and you drive demand for everything from housing to cars to dinner at the local restaurant.

Elections Matter. Every single election.

When the next election rolls around, in 2013 2014 2015 and 2016, don’t stay home. Because when we vote, we win. And so does America.

(Crossposted from Views from North Central Blogistan)


  1. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) accidentally tipped his hand in a speech Monday saying that the next public employee unions to be stripped of collective bargaining rights would be the police and firefighters who were exempted from Act 10 in 2011. He quickly walked it back, realizing that this time people were paying attention to how he says he will govern.

    In that speech, he had also been waxing poetic about FDR and public employees:

    “The position I pushed is not unlike the principle that Franklin Delano Roosevelt – not exactly a conservative – pushed as well when it came to public sector collective bargaining,” Walker said. “He felt that there wasn’t a need in the public sector to have collective bargaining because the government is the people. We are the people. And so what we’ve done is to be able to empower our great employees, to affirm them.

    Yes, he inspired those workers and the Democrats in Wisconsin, to protest for a month, recall two state senators, and force him to protect his governorship by running in an expensive recall election.

    But the equating himself to FDR, earned this:

    Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the state AFL-CIO, scoffed. “Gov. Walker is no Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wisconsin knows it,” Neuenfeldt said. “FDR brought us out of the Great Depression with strong investment in workers and jobs programs that worked. Scott Walker is drowning in a jobs deficit and to compare himself to FDR is laughably delusional.

    Fool us once in the 2010 low turnout mid-term election year, shame on us for not showing up. We won’t be fooled in 2014.

  2. princesspat

    And an informed electorate is essential. Thanks for writing JanF. I appreciate sharing your perspective and learning important information when reading your articles.

  3. princesspat

    I am not statistically literate so I need informed journalism to help me understand the difference between known facts and the day to day political narrative. I started reading Wang’s and Silver’s work in the last election so I’ve been interested in Nate Silver’s move to ESPN. Here’s Sam Wang’s take…..

    Nate Silver’s move

    In my view, Yglesias (and Ezra Klein too) put their finger on what Silver added: storytelling. From 2004 to 2010, I ran a simple site with very little daily essay writing. My traffic was low. Adding the daily column drove traffic up tremendously. The fact is that readers like the narrative. This is Nate Silver’s contribution: finding a way to make the numbers into a compelling play-by-play. Again, it’s the sports guy in him.

    Matt Yglesias’s thoughts…..

    Nate Silver’s Amazing Election Forecasting Method is Also Incredibly Simple

    Now on my grumpy days I think to myself Nate Silver is overrated his election forecasting methods are superior to being a total moron but that’s an awfully low bar. On my non-grumpy days, I recall that the moron method of election forecasting had dominated the media landscape for years and that mainstream news media continues to insist on methodologically absurd conventions like exclusive reliance on in-house polls rather than aggregation and averaging. But most of all, from a non-grumpy viewpoint Silver’s success is a reminder that journalism is about more than getting the answers right. He’s a fantastic and engaging writer, who not only came up with an election forecasting method that far outpaces the TV pundits but more impressively he found a large audience for it. After all, even though the TV pundits’ methods are totally wrong and arbitrary they don’t do what they do for no reason. The idea is that it makes good television. And you don’t crowd out terrible analysis just by doing better analysis, you have to find the better analysis and find a way to make it compelling to people. That’s what Nate Silver accomplished.

    Sam Wang’s article links to more articles. I enjoyed reading James Poniewozik’s analysis….

    There Is a 99.45% Chance That Nate Silver Is Changing Journalism

    * Silver embarrassed pundits; he didn’t kill political journalism. I and other have written about the friction between Silver and political pundits during the 2012 election. It was entertaining, and frankly satisfying, to see so many professionals pooh-pooh his data crunching and insist Obama-Romney was a toss-up, whatever Silver’s computer machine said. But Nate Silver did not render the whole of political journalism obsolete, nor I’m sure, did he want to. He made a very specific kind of punditry obsolete-having experienced journalists apply their minds and expertise to predicting an election outcome. To be clear: if you were saying (and many prominent folks were), that “I can feel that this election is a lot closer than Silver’s percentages,” Nate Silver made you look ridiculous. But that’s not a bad thing, even for the pundits. It should show us that, if poll analysis is better left to actual analysts, it frees up prognosticators to apply themselves to things like the analyzing the themes, stakes, and matters of governance that make election results matter.

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