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Labor's Struggles: Report From The Front

Publication Date: 
September 04, 2011
Joseph Williams

Professor Bill Gould spoke with Politico's Joseph Williams about the labor-management wars and how Republicans are more "ferocious" today in their pursuit of the NLRB than they were in the 90's.

From 1997 until last week, Wilma Liebman served on the front lines of the labor-management wars. As a member and then chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board, which polices workplace laws and unionization drives, she had a unique vantage point to witness organized labor's fortunes wax and wane - but mostly wane.

Yet she sounds surprised - and dismayed - at the attacks on the bipartisan board she led until her term expired Aug. 27th, and the diminished clout of the national labor movement in general.


Stanford law professor and labor historian William Gould, a former NLRB chairman, said Big Labor has always been in the Republicans' cross-hairs, practically from the time the movement matured as a political force in the 1930s and 1940s. What's different now, he said, is the GOP has firepower to do significant damage to a movement in decline.

Republicans "have no interest whatsoever in the rule of law in the workplace, and in the 90s, when I was chairman of the board, they went after me and my board and tried to reverse what we had done," said Gould.

"In a way, what's happening now is just an extension of what they were doing with the Clinton board in the 90s...It's hard for me to accept, in light of what I experienced in the 90s, but they are more ferocious than what I experienced" back then.