Monthly Archives: September 2011
WASHINGTON — House appropriators want to cut funding for the National Labor Relations Board following a dispute involving Boeing, but they aren’t yet ready to eliminate the agency, as a South Carolina congressman has proposed.
The House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation Thursday that would cut the board’s budget by 17 percent in fiscal 2012.
That falls short of Rep. Trey Gowdy’s proposal to eliminate all funding for the board.
Gowdy, a Republican from Spartanburg, said he will introduce his measure on the House floor as an amendment to the committee’s spending bill.
“The fight is just now beginning,” Gowdy said. “I am not going to be able to support an appropriations bill that continues a quasi law enforcement agency that I have no confidence in.”
The labor board became a target of GOP attacks after filing a complaint saying Boeing was retaliating for past strikes by workers in Washington state when it decided to locate a second assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner airplane in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, instead of Washington.
Gowdy, who is not a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he didn’t try to persuade committee members to kill off the labor board as they were drafting the spending bill.
He said House leaders prefer that members work to amend appropriations bills during floor votes.
Earlier this month, Gowdy introduced standalone legislation to eliminate the labor board, calling it a tool of worker unions. That measure hasn’t advanced. It has 13 co-sponsors, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-Lancaster County, and Joe Wilson, R-West Columbia.
House Republicans weren’t able to kill off the NLRB because of political pressure from worried workers, said Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that initiated the Boeing complaint by approaching the labor board last year.
The NLRB “should not be dissolved on a lobbyist’s whim or for the benefit of a single corporation,” he said.
Gowdy’s bill, Larkin said, “is a proposal by a freshman congressman at the behest of the House leadership, who see this as a potentpolitical issue.”
The labor board declined comment.
The House Appropriations Committee has proposed giving the labor board $234 million in fiscal 2012, $49 million less than the amount proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The House proposal also would strike down some NLRB actions and limit its authority. It doesn’t address the labor board’s complaint against Boeing.
The labor board wants a judge to order Boeing to move the assembly line back to the Pacific Northwest — an unlikely outcome given that the $750 million North Charleston plant is up and running.
Boeing said it chose South Carolina for the assembly line for business reasons, not as payback for the strikes in heavily unionized Washington state.
In mid-September, the House passed legislation by Rep. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, to block the labor board from trying to get companies to move operations for any reason.
The measure was co-sponsored by 18 others, including South Carolina GOP Reps. Joe Wilson, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan. It passed along mostly partisan lines.
It’s unlikely the Senate, controlled by Democrats, will consider the measure, although Scott said Democratic support is building.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee deadlocked 15-15 on a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that mirrored Scott’s bill. One Democrat, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, sided with Graham. Source: RajuU Chebium. Gannett Washington Bureau. WLTX. Columbia, South Carolina.
A controversial National Labor Relations Board regulation, which requires employers to display a poster informing workers of their rights regarding unions, has raised the question of whether the agency has overstepped its authoritative power.
Many lawsuits have been filed as a result. In fact, The Hill reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business have filed suits against the NLRB.
Questions of employers’ free speech rights also are being called into question. However, the NLRB counters that Section 6 of the NLRB Act delegates this authority. According to the regulation, which is listed on the Federal Register’s website, the board states that if Congress had intended to curtail its authority as listed in section 6, then Congress would have listed exceptions to the rule.
The reason the board says this poster is needed is because many people may not know their rights. So why does the board think employees do not know their union rights?
According to the regulation, the board cites reasons as a dwindling number of union employees, and an increasing amount of immigrants and high schoolers in the workforce who may not know their union rights.
This is the advertisement that the NLRB ran on Google back in March of this year, then came under fire for not paying for the ad, and then abruptly pulled the advertisement. This latest issue with the posters is just the NLRB’s retaliatory action.
Ronald Kratz II, who weighed as much as 680 pounds while he was working at BAE Systems in Sealy, says his obesity never kept him from doing his job or receiving high performance ratings during his 16-year career.
But one day two years ago, when he reported for an overtime shift on his materials handling job, Kratz was told that he was too heavy to continue performing the work
In an interview with the Chronicle on Wednesday, Kratz said he was called into the human resources office and told he was being terminated because company officials thought he weighed too much.
“It was a total surprise,” said Kratz, who had received high marks on his two most recent job evaluations. He said company officials declined his offer to take a demotion to keep his job.
“I wanted to cry,” recalled Kratz, who was earning $21 an hour and supports a wife and three teenagers. He filed a complaint with the EEOC, which investigated his claims.
On Tuesday, the agency alleged in a federal lawsuit that BAE Systems violated federal disability laws by firing its morbidly obese employee.
BAE said in a written statement that it is reviewing the allegations and “will respond at the appropriate time and manner.”
Kratz, 42, still hasn’t found another job, despite submitting numerous applications, and his unemployment benefits have run out. “It has really been hard on the family,” he said.
Kratz said he weighed 450 pounds when BAE hired him, gained more than 200 pounds while working there and is now down to less than 300 pounds, thanks to surgery and a diet and exercise program.
John Griffin Jr., an employment lawyer who represents employees in disability cases, called Kratz’s situation a classic disability discrimination case.
In its Houston federal court lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that Virginia-based BAE, which manufactures military vehicles, fired Kratz for his disability as well as its perception that he was disabled.
It appears the company took the impairment it saw – Kratz’s obesity – as the reason for termination, said Griffin, managing partner at Marek, Griffin & Knaupp in Victoria.
Kratz said his weight didn’t interfere with his job – which included mostly desk work with some sorting and moving of inventory – and that he didn’t ask for any accommodation except a seatbelt extension for the forklift he sometimes had to operate. Kratz said he never received the extender.
BAE contended Kratz had difficulty walking from the parking lot to the plant, from which it concluded he had trouble walking around the facility, said Kathy Boutchee, the EEOC lawyer in charge of the case.
The company also told EEOC investigators that Kratz had difficulty bending, stooping and kneeling.
But like his co-workers, Kratz sorted parts on a raised platform, so he didn’t have to stoop, Boutchee said.
BAE officials did not discuss whether he was entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act so he could better perform his essential duties, according to the suit.
The lawsuit says Kratz received “very good” ratings in his 2008 and 2009 performance evaluations.
BAE replaced Kratz with an employee who was not obese, the EEOC said.
Can he do the job?
Griffin, the employment lawyer, said that in passing the disabilities act, Congress sent a message that employment decisions must be based on whether workers can do the job and not whether they have physical impairments. It shouldn’t matter whether employees have only three fingers or have epilepsy or diabetes if they can do the job, he said.
Congress amended the disabilities act in 2008, expanding the definition of what constitutes a disability and making it easier for millions more disabled workers to qualify for protections under the act. That means that more disabled employees are covered, including those who can control their disabilities through medical treatment. Source: Houston Chronicle. Chron.com.