Dark Ages Ahead at the NLRB

Dark Ages Ahead at the NLRB


Most Americans are probably unaware that “the Dark Ages were not all bad and the Enlightenment not all good.” Or that “homosexuality [is] a sin worthy of death.” Or that one of the greatest threats to the country is “the Feminization of American Life.” Or that we should still be debating the question: “Who Was Right in the War Between the States: the Union or the Confederacy?”

If you are active with the Christian fundamentalist organization American Vision, however, this is mainstream thinking–or, more precisely, the thinking you hope to force down the throat of the mainstream. The Georgia-based group’s president, Gary DeMar, preaches about “the necessity of storming the gates of hell” and cleansing public institutions of “secularism, atheism, humanism, and just plain anti-Christian sentiment.” He may soon be dispatching a prominent foot soldier to do just that. J. Robert Brame III, American Vision’s board secretary, reportedly tops President Bush’s list of likely appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, the five-member agency that determines the fate of workers seeking union recognition and helps define how federal law protects women, gays and lesbians, and others seeking representation in the workplace.

Brame, a management lawyer, previously served on the board from 1997 to 2000. Technically appointed by Bill Clinton, he was actually a choice forced upon the former President by Senate Republicans who refused to act on Clinton’s appointments unless he gave Brame the job. During those three years, Brame was the most frequent dissenter from the board’s pro-labor decisions. He opposed moves to make it easier for temporary workers, graduate students and medical interns and residents to unionize. He was a lonely advocate of steps to limit the ability of unions to use dues money to pay for organizing. Brame even complained about NLRB rulings that “facilitate union organizing in the modern work place.”

Brame’s record, his association with American Vision and the very real prospect that he could end up chairing a Bush-appointed NLRB majority by the end of the year have energized opponents. Taking the lead is the gay and lesbian labor group Pride at Work, which aims, says interim executive director Marta Ames, “to make enough noise so that Bush decides it’s not worth it to appoint someone who is associated with the viewpoint that LGBT people are ‘monsters’ who should be stoned.”

“Gays and lesbians, women, people of color and young people are harassed on the job all the time, and that harassment becomes vicious when we’re trying to organize into unions,” says Sarah Luthens, a Seattle union organizer active with the Out Front Labor Coalition. “To think that someone like Brame would be in a position to decide whether that harassment represents a violation of labor laws that are already too weak is horrifying.”

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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