Published November 30, 2011
The National Labor Relations Board will remain operational for at least another month, after the lone Republican member dropped his threat to resign -- a move that would effectively have shut down the board.
The Republican, Brian Hayes, had threatened to resign over a proposal to speed up union elections. But he announced at a meeting Wednesday that he has "rejected this option."
"It is not my nature to be obstructionist," he said in the statement he read at the meeting. Hayes said he also didn't want to deprive himself of a voice on the union-elections proposal or hurt the reputation of the agency.
Hayes ended up voting against the proposal on the table Wednesday, but it passed with the support of the panel's two other members, both Democrats.
The tiny size of the board is the reason Hayes' resignation would have shut things down. The three-member board is not currently at its full, five-member capacity -- if it loses just one more member, it would no longer legally be allowed to issue rulings and regulations.
The board's future remains uncertain. While Hayes announced that he plans to stay on, Democratic member Craig Becker's recess appointment is up at the end of the year. That would reduce the agency to two members, effectively incapacitating the board.
Hayes acknowledged the possibility of this scenario, but stressed "this is not an emergency situation."
Hayes also responded to critics who had suggested he may have been pressured to resign by those who'd like to see the board shut down. "This was a matter of personal conscience, not a response to outside entreaty," he said.
Meanwhile, he railed against the union elections proposal.
The resolution on the table was a scaled-down version of an earlier plan. Board Chairman Mark Pearce described it as a "more limited resolution." He said it would only apply to "the minority of elections which are held up by needless litigation" and other disputes. He said other changes to the election process should stay on the table for future consideration.
But even the future of the scaled-down version is unclear. The 2-1 vote on Wednesday did not represent a final decision. The board would still have to vote on a final rule, and with the future of the board in doubt, it's unclear if and when that might happen.
In addition, the House approved a Republican bill Wednesday that would prevent the board from shortening the union election process.
Critics of the union proposal say it wouldn't give businesses enough time to respond when would-be union leaders try to organize a vote.