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The incredible shrinking NLRB

For the National Labor Relations Board, 2007 was a rocky year marked by a host of 3-2 decisions divided down party lines, a complaint issued against it by the AFL-CIO which claimed the board was systematically destroying the right of employees to unionize and conduct union activities, and a congressional hearing where members of the Board were called before U.S. lawmakers to explain the situation.

Now the Board is kicking off 2008 with only two members.

Former Chairman Robert J. Battista, one of three Republicans who formed a majority bloc in a number of tight decisions last year, stepped down on Dec. 16 when his term expired. When congress adjourns for winter break this month, the recess appointments of two other members, Republican Peter N. Kirsanow and Democrat Dennis P. Walsh, will also end.

That will leave the board with only two members: Democrat Wilma B. Liebman and Republican Peter C. Schaumber. Having been designated as an official quorum when the panel had at least three members, the two members will have the authority to continue to issue decisions as a two-member board until more members are appointed. The last time such an arrangement was necessary was in 2005, the Board said in a press release issued late last week which detailed its authority to continue to operate with such a skeleton crew.

Also, the Board temporarily delegated authority on all litigation matters that would otherwise be subject to Board approval to its General Counsel, Ronald Meisburg. From the Board’s announcement: “This delegation will give the General Counsel full and final authority on behalf of the Board to initiate and prosecute injunction proceedings under Section 10(j), or Section 10(e) and (f), of the National Labor Relations Act. The Board issued a similar delegation of authority to the General Counsel in 1993 and 2001.”

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