Cross posted from CWA's Resistance Growing blog:
Community and political pressure has convinced Cablevision-Optimum to rehire the 22 workers it illegally locked out and fired seven weeks ago. Protesters gathered at Cablevision-Optimum’s Brooklyn garages, all four major Democratic mayoral candidates condemned the firing, and the City Council held a hearing on whether Cablevision-Optimum had violated its franchise agreement with the City of New York.
It was big victory for those workers and their families.
Not are all workers are so fortunate. Many are still out of work, fighting the unfair labor practices of unscrupulous employers because they no longer have the protections of the National Labor Relations Board.
Let’s rewind. Just five days before Cablevision illegally kicked 22 technicians to the curb, a judicial ruling in Washington dealt a crushing blow to the NLRB. A three-judge panel of Republican appointees to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared that President Barack Obama’s three recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional because the Senate wasn’t technically recessed, only away on winter break.
In knocking down three of the board’s five members, the ruling completely vaporized the NLRB’s ability to enforce US labor law.
Moreover, the NLRB will continue be powerless until it has a quorum of Senate-confirmed members. That presents yet another challenge. The Republican minority has made 60 votes the default requirement for any action – big or small – in the Senate. These are the same lawmakers that previously blocked Obama’s NLRB nominees, forcing him to make those now-besieged recess appointments. So if the GOP’s unprecedented use of the filibuster is any indication, getting approval for any of Obama’s future NLRB appointments will be next to impossible.
The failure of the Senate to adopt rules that would allow real debate on the Senate floor has further obstructed any hope of progress.
This all has paved the way for Cablevision to fire workers without fear of reprisal. Now, at last count, 87 other companies are challenging decisions issued by the NLRB and its regional offices. Corporations now are saying that they are not bound by the NLRB. Management lawyers are looking to throw out some 600 NLRB decisions and are essentially telling their clients, “You don’t have to obey anything.”
So workers, like those at Cablevision and at every other employer, both union-represented and non-union, have no recourse.
But there’s a solution: Restore democracy and debate to the US Senate with real reform of the Senate rules. Democrats would finally be able to overcome Republican obstruction to return the NLRB to a functioning, five-member board. And a fully-operative NLRB means workers will finally have a path to workplace justice.