A Feb. 4 column by Harold Meyerson ("How a GOP minority stole your rights") was long on rhetoric and short on key details that would have helped readers better understand a crisis facing our nation. While Meyerson's concerns about "nullified safeguards for average Americans" are valid, he failed to identify the source of the problem. The real culprit is the presidential power grab already affecting workplaces across the country.
Last year, President Obama chose to ignore constitutionally prescribed limits on executive power by unilaterally installing three individuals to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without congressional consent.
The president's decision to make these so-called "recess" appointments was unprecedented and faced immediate criticism. Constitutional scholars asserted that the president had overreached. Business leaders warned that the work the board performs on behalf of employees and employers had been tainted. Even a former Clinton appointee to the board declared that the president's decision created a cloud over the board and any action it might take.
To some, the NLRB is another federal agency filled with Washington bureaucrats. Its work, however, affects virtually every private workplace in the country. In the wake of the president's action, legal challenges were filed in federal courts. Efforts to overturn various board rulings were initiated on the basis that the board itself was no longer legitimate.
This legal turmoil created even greater uncertainty in workplaces already struggling with a difficult economic climate. And in light of the recent federal appeals-court ruling that the recess appointments were unconstitutional, we can only expect another deluge of challenges to flood our courts. Employers, workers and unions will be forced to spend more time and money in federal court and will have less confidence about what the future holds.
For years to come, lawyers and academics will debate the legal consequences of the unconstitutional appointments and the recent court ruling. However, all Americans must understand the immediate effects of the president's action.
Our nation needs a National Labor Relations Board that functions properly and acts responsibly. Without it, the rights of workers are diminished and employers are left in legal limbo. Equally troubling, a rogue board can undermine the growth and prosperity our nation is working so hard to achieve.
In recent years, the board adopted numerous decisions that tilt the playing field against workers and their employers. Harmful policies that restrict access to the secret ballot, threaten workers' personal privacy and make it more difficult for employers to run successful businesses will continue to face fierce opposition from me and other like-minded leaders.
Workers have a right to a collective voice in the workplace and to decide for themselves whether to join a union. As a nation, our support for these principles has been passed down through generations of hardworking Americans. What we cannot support is the president's decision to blatantly disregard the constitutional appointment process in an effort to further an agenda that undermines the very rights we need to protect.
At a time when millions of our fellow citizens were searching for a job, the president put politics before the best interests of the country. Now, countless workers and job creators are forced to live every day with the uncertainty his unconstitutional appointment scheme has created.
The president has run roughshod over the Constitution and has damaged the integrity of the board, harming our nation's workforce in the process. A broken board can be made whole if President Obama sets aside politics and works with the U.S. Senate to seat qualified nominees. The president created this crisis, and it is time he addressed it.
John Kline represents Minnesota's second congressional district in the U.S. House.