The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether two people can do the work of five when it comes to resolving labor-management disputes in the workplace.
The National Labor Relations Board, which for decades has had the responsibility to police many of these disputes, has operated with only two members — and three vacancies — for more than a year. The reason for this is that Democrats who retook control of Congress in 2006 objected to President George W. Bush's labor policies, and thus refused to confirm his nominees.
But the two NLRB members still in place have continued to issue decisions, making about 400 in the last 16 months.
The U.S. Courts of Appeal have split on whether decisions made by only two members of the board are legal. The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia said an NLRB decision handed down last year was invalid because it was made by just two members while the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago took the opposite position.
It ruled that a vote by the two members was appropriate and binding.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers. The five members are nominated to five-year terms by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate.
The case, reviewing the 7th circuit ruling, will be argued next year and a ruling should come by late June.
The case is New Process Steel v. NLRB, 08-1457.