The six co-chairs of the Congressional Labor Caucus on Tuesday implored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ensure that the cash-starved National Labor Relations Board receives additional funding in the final appropriations bill of the lame-duck session.
"The status quo of NLRB funding is untenable."
In a letter to Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democratic Reps. Donald Norcross (N.J.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) drew attention to the pressing need to shore up the NLRB's budget before the Republican Party, which is openly hostile to the federal agency tasked with protecting the rights of private-sector workers, takes control of the House.
"[W]e write to... express our grave concern over the ongoing funding crisis at the National Labor Relations Board," states the letter. "We consider this funding a top priority and urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to increase funding for the NLRB in the end-of-year appropriations package."
The letter continues:
The funding situation at the NLRB is dire. Despite the NLRB's vital mission, the board has received the same appropriation of $274 million since FY2014. In FY2010, [the] board received $283.4 million in appropriations, meaning that the current funding level is essentially a 25% cut in inflation-adjusted dollars since FY2010. Due to inadequate funding, overall staffing levels have dropped by 39% over the past two decades and field staffing has been cut in half.
Earlier this month, the NLRB warned members of Congress that it "has exhausted its ability to absorb cost increases through staff attrition and operational efficiencies." The agency added that it "has already implemented a hiring freeze and, without additional funding, will likely be forced to pursue furloughs."
The union that represents labor board employees put the shortfall in even stronger terms in early November when it tweeted that the agency is "facing budgetary Armageddon."
"We are desperately asking Congress to increase our budget in the coming weeks," the NLRB Union wrote on social media.
"It is increasingly possible that the NLRB will have to furlough employees at a time while our caseloads are skyrocketing. This is the crisis in labor law enforcement we have warned of," the union added. "Only Congress can prevent this catastrophe from happening by increasing the agency's budget."
On Tuesday, the co-chairs of the Congressional Labor Caucus told House and Senate leaders that "we must heed this stark warning."
"Simply put, the status quo of NLRB funding is untenable," the lawmakers wrote in a follow-up to an April letter in which 149 House Democrats, led by Norcross, asked House Appropriations Committee leaders to approve a $368 million NLRB budget for FY2023.
Time is of the essence, given that a funding boost is far less likely once Democrats hand the reins of the House to GOP lawmakers who have opposed increasing the NLRB's budget for nearly a decade.
Earlier this year, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Education and Labor, derided the Biden administration's request for a $319 million NLRB budget for FY2023 as a "stupid idea."
"Under this administration," Foxx said, "the NLRB has become the errand boy for labor unions."
Over the past two years, the agency has seen a rise in union representation petitions as workers at Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Trader Joe's, Chipotle, and other powerful corporations try to organize in the face of persistent—and often unlawful—employer opposition.
Notably, the NLRB recently requested a nationwide cease-and-desist order to stop Starbucks from terminating workers for engaging in legally protected union activity. Last week, a federal judge filed a nationwide cease-and-desist order requiring Amazon to halt retaliatory firings of pro-union workers, a move that came in response to an NLRB complaint.
"More and more workers are fighting to have their voices heard, so this independent agency must have the resources it needs to give people a fair shake," Norcross tweeted earlier this month.
In Tuesday's letter, the co-chairs of the Congressional Labor Caucus wrote that "continuing to underfund the NLRB not only puts workers' rights at risk but also subjects employers to costly uncertainty."
The NLRB is essential to supporting both employers and employees, and the ability of the board to fulfill its statutory mission is in jeopardy without additional funding. Compounding the alarming situation, the NLRB has seen a 28% increase in the number of cases pending before the board between FY2014 to FY2022. The vast majority of these cases are noncontroversial, with the NLRB stating that 95% are settled or resolved by career staff in the field. Without additional funding, employers and employees face longer wait times to receive decisions and live longer in doubt even for the most rudimentary cases.
"Our economy, our nation's employers, and our nation's workers need the NLRB to receive funding that allows it to fully implement its mission," the lawmakers added.
The letter comes as Pelosi moves to satisfy President Joe Biden's request to introduce legislation that would preempt a nationwide rail strike by forcing workers to accept a contract that does not include a single paid sick day.
The six co-chairs of the Congressional Labor Caucus are not among the handful of progressive lawmakers who have criticized the White House's intervention on behalf of rail industry bosses.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Kenny Stancil.