The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Congress Challenges Labor Board Anti-Union Definitions

by Megan Tady

Mar. 30, 2007 – Lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would give back millions of workers the right to join unions.

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The bill, called the Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers (RESPECT) Act, would modify the definition of supervisor in the National Labor Relations Act. The current definition has been the source of major contention between unions and businesses.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is dominated by President Bush’s appointees, reinterpreted the definition of "supervisor" in September, cutting hundreds of thousands of nurses out of the right to join unions. The Board said charge nurses "assign" tasks and have a "responsibility to direct others," and are therefore supervisors under the Act. The progressive research organization Economic Policy Institute estimated that more than a third of all registered nurses nationwide could be affected by a new interpretation.

As previously reported by The NewStandard, worker advocates feared that the new interpretation would thwart anyone who delegates tasks from joining a union.

The Respect Act, however, would effectively reverse the NLRB’s ruling by striking the terms "assign" and "responsibility to direct" from the definition of supervisor. The bill would also define a supervisor as anyone who engages in supervisory activities "for a majority of the individual’s work time."

The bill was introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D–Connecticut), Richard Durbin (D–Illinois) and Edward Kennedy (D–Massachusetts) and Representatives Rob Andrews (D–New Jersey) and Rosa DeLauro (D–Connecticut).

Labor unions, including the AFL-CIO and the American Nurses Association, welcomed the bill.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Megan Tady is a staff journalist.

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