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US labor board under fire in latest union-Republican clash

Amid unrest over perceived economic injustices, some Republicans vow to abolish the National Labor Relations Board. The labor board, they say, is impeding economic recovery. Can they succeed?

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The National Labor Relations Board was created in the throes of the Great Depression as a federal strong arm to keep corporations from exploiting workers. Eighty years later, with America struggling to recover from the Great Recession, the board's relevance in adjudicating unfair labor practices is being tested as never before.

For one thing, some Republican presidential candidates are vowing to abolish it or refashion it, as are many congressional Republicans. For another, the NLRB deals only with complaints from unionized private-sector workers, who now make up only 7 percent of the private-sector work force.

The challenges to the board come even as the Occupy Wall Street movement rails against perceived worker injustices and President Obama's NLRB appointees try to raise the board's profile. The most direct one yet came Wednesday, after the three sitting members of the five-seat board voted 2-to-1 to move a proposal that would fast-track votes to unionize – what critics call “ambush” unionization – to give companies less time to mount legal or public-relations campaigns against unionization. Almost immediately, the Republican-led House of Representatives approved a bill to negate fast-track unionization – though the vote was largely symbolic, as the Democratic-led Senate is unlikely ever to let the measure see the light of day.

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