New Process Steel – The Supreme Court Sends The NLRB Back To The Drawing Board
The Supreme Court invalidated today almost 600 decisions issued by the two members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who served for a 27-month period beginning in December, 2007. The Court, in a 5-4 opinion, ruled that the two member panel did not constitute a "quorum" authorized to decide cases under Section 3(b) of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 3(b) is the statutory provision that sets forth the familiar three member panel quorum provisions used by the NLRB in deciding cases. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Stevens, and joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayer, dissented, agreeing with the government's proposed reading of the statutory provision.
The practical effect of New Process Steel will be significant. The NLRB now has four members, as a result of two recess appointments made by President Obama in March of this year. Those appointments, which include Craig Becker, a former lawyer for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, are widely expected to change the ideological make-up of the NLRB. See "Becker Means Change At The Labor Board," Crowell & Moring Labor & Employment Client Alert (April 1, 2010). The almost 600 decisions vacated by the Court's decision in New Process Steel are now fair game for reconsideration by the new Democratic-controlled majority of the NLRB.
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