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The Republican-dominated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continued its string of anti-worker decisions with a major ruling Nov. 19 that overturns a key precedent and further restricts workers’ freedom to form unions.
The 3–2 decision overturns the four-year-old precedent set in M.B. Sturgis, which allowed temporary workers supplied by staffing firms the right to form a combined union with employees of the company using the temporary workers.
Under the new ruling, temporary workers now must have the permission of both employers before there can be a vote on whether to form a union.
The board dismissed a petition filed by SEIU District 1199 seeking to represent employees at Oakwood Care Center, a nursing home in Oakdale, N.Y. The nursing home and N&W Agency Inc. jointly determine the agency workers’ pay and benefits. Oakwood supervises them, and they work side by side with workers employed solely by the nursing home.
The three Republican members of the NLRB voted for the change, while the two Democrats, Wilma Liebman and Dennis Walsh, dissented strongly. They accused the majority of “accelerating the expansion of a permanent underclass of workers” and charged that the “result—which exalts business flexibility at the complete expense of employee rights—is the opposite of what Congress intended.”
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, “Despite frequent rhetoric from the Bush administration about meeting the challenges of the 21st century, this decision demonstrates an effort by the Bush board to shrink the coverage of the federal law and reverse a decision that was designed in part to recognize changing employment patterns and remove an arbitrary barrier to organizing among temporary workers.”
This past summer, the NLRB, also along partisan lines, voted to deny university teaching and research assistants the protections of the National Labor Relations Act, which include the right to form unions, and restricted the rights of workers with disabilities to form unions.


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