April 2013 Issue
March 27, 2013

Ruling clouds labor decisions

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

A federal appeals court ruling that three National Labor Relations Board members were appointed illegally could jeopardize numerous NLRB decisions made over the last 15 months.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the appointment of the three members — made in January of last year by President Obama during a Senate recess and without Senate confirmation — was unconstitutional. Because the appointments were determined invalid, the NLRB therefore lacked a quorum, the court said.

The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by Noel Canning, a canning and bottling company in Washington state that challenged an NLRB decision relating to a labor dispute.

The U.S. Department of Justice is now weighing whether to challenge the ruling. It could appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, or ask the full circuit court to hear the case.

NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said the board "respectfully" disagreed with the ruling, adding the board believes President Obama's position will be upheld. The board, in the meantime, "will continue to perform our statutory duties and issue decisions," he said.

While the ruling clouds all NLRB decisions made since the appointments, the D.C. court has not decided whether its ruling should have a retroactive effect on pending cases.

Among the decisions that could be effected is the NLRB's ruling in the case of the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy Charter School. The NLRB ruled that teachers employed at that Chicago charter school work for a private entity and are, therefore, subject to private-sector labor laws rather than state laws governing public workers.