The Labor Research Association offers a timely reminder of the impact this election will have on the future of the National Labor Relations Board: The five-member NLRB is now controlled by Bush appointees. The winner of the November election will control new appointments for all five seats plus the crucial general counsel position. One NLRB member s term expires in December of this year; two expire in 2005, one in 2006, and one in 2007. The general counsel’s term expires in June 2005. The composition of the NLRB members over the next presidential term will set the direction for the board at a crucial juncture in its history. Within the next four years, 33 percent of the entire NLRB staff will be eligible for retirement, and one third of those are supervisors. Hiring and training replacements for this large group of NLRB staffers will heavily influence the fairness and quality of the agency's work for decades to come. The next president will also determine if the NLRB will be rebuilt as a viable agency or will continue to be limited by low budgets and understaffing. Bush’s 2004 budget increased the agency’s funding by only 2.2 percent despite an estimated 6.7 percent increase in the NLRB’s caseload for the year. The number of full-time staff at the NLRB has declined from 1,946 in 2002 to 1,875 this year. With rent and salary increases pushing costs significantly higher, the NLRB faced an $8.7 million shortfall this year. Budget shortfalls forced the agency to cut back on the time and funds devoted to unfair labor practice investigations and trials and preparations for representation elections. In 2004, the NLRB handled an estimated 30,000 unfair labor practices and 6,000 representation cases. Although workers’ rights have been weakened under the Bush administration’s NLRB, it essentially remains the court of last resort for most workers and their unions. The composition of the NLRB over the next four years will also shape the agency’s position on the crucial issue of card-check recognition. The Bush-controlled NLRB has weakened this important vehicle for workers’ representation rights and is planning to review the legality of card-check recognition within the next year.


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