A new bill was introduced by Senate Republicans this week which aims to reform the structure of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Among other changes, the bill, called the NLRB Reform Act, would require the NLRB to have 6 board members of which 3 must be Republicans and 3 must be Democrats–similar to the make-up of the Federal Election Commission. Currently the NLRB is comprised of 5 members (and, while the split is currently 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans, members are appointed by the President to five year terms upon the consent of the Senate). In addition to changing the composition of the board, the NLRB Reform Bill would cut the budget of the NLRB if the board is not able to decide 90 percent of its cases within a year and expedite the process by which a party can appeal a NLRB General Counsel complaint to the Federal Courts. Notice, too, that this bill would eliminate the possibility of independent representation on the NLRB.
The NLRB has received a lot of press of late – both positive and negative – since its General Counsel opined that McDonald’s can be a joint employer with its franchisees this past summer. Opponents of the bill claim that an even split of board members along partisan lines would render the NLRB in constant gridlock and therefore useless at resolving important labor cases. Proponents of the bill, including the International Franchise Association, claim that the bill is necessary to eliminate and change the NLRB “from an advocate to an empire.” It is unlikely that the NLRB Reform Act will move forward given the Senate’s current composition but we be watching for any developments especially if the next election changes the Democratically controlled Senate.