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Senator Murray Statement on NLRB Joint Employer Rule

Murray: NLRB rule “shields the largest corporations from being held accountable for workers’ rights, and significantly restricts the ability of workers to bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions”


Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) joint employer rule, which will make it harder for workers to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions—especially workers whose jobs have been contracted out or who work at franchises. The NLRB’s final rule more narrowly defines when workers who have two or more employers can bring all of their employers to the table when they bargain for better terms and conditions of employment. This rule will allow the largest corporations to evade liability for violations of workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  


“Once again, the Trump Administration has taken steps to protect the largest corporations at the expense of hardworking Americans. Today, the very agency tasked with protecting workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively, released a rule that shields the largest corporations from being held accountable for workplace rights, and significantly restricts the ability of workers to bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions,” said Senator Murray. “This is unacceptable—you shouldn’t be denied the right to bargain for a raise just because the name of the building you walk into isn’t the name of the company that signs your paycheck. No matter if you are employed directly by a large corporation or through an alternative work arrangement, every worker should be able to exercise their rights under the NLRA.”  


Over the last several decades, large corporate employers have increasingly used intermediaries to evade their obligations to bargain with workers under the NLRA. In workplaces across the country, intermediaries, such as contractors, are bound by agreements with controlling corporations that directly and indirectly restrict intermediaries’ power to grant wage increases, better benefits, and other workplace improvements. Yet this rule eliminates the responsibility of large corporations that use alternative work arrangements, such as contracting out or franchising, to bargain with those workers. Additionally, this rule prevents large corporations from being held legally responsible for unfair labor practices at those workplaces.   


The NLRB issued this rule despite currently having only three out of five members—all Republicans appointed by the Trump Administration. The other two seats remain vacant after Senate Republicans refused to confirm one Democratic nominee and the White House has not yet nominated Democratic nominees to fill those seats.


In 2017, the Republican Board members rushed to overturn the Obama-era joint employer standard, which restored the definition of joint employer and ensured workers’ rights to collectively bargain with their employers. In February 2018, the Board was forced to vacate the decision after NLRB ethics officials determined Member William J. Emanuel should not have participated in the decision due to a conflict of interest. Despite this, in September 2018, the NLRB went ahead with proposing its joint employer rule, which was finalized today. In September 2018, Senator Murray released a statement opposing the proposal and noted that it came “after a botched attempt to undermine workers’ rights by grossly violating ethics rules.”


The Department of Labor (DOL) also recently issued a new joint employer standard, which Senator Murray strongly opposed. The DOL standard attempts to erode workers’ protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) and, once again, highlights the Trump Administration’s history of siding with the largest corporations instead of workers.