Most states in the United States have a labor board that serves as the ultimate authority for the resolution of labor disputes. These disputes generally arise when a wage earner has been denied unemployment benefits or when a labor-business dispute has not been resolved in a manner that seems just to one side or the other in a labor dispute.
Before an issue is brought before the board, it is handled by lower bodies of review, including administrative judges. While the judgment of an administrative judge is usually consider final, the judgment may be appealed to the state labor board which, in such a case, serves as a kind of supreme court of labor disputes.
Just as the justices of a supreme court are generally appointed by president or governor, so too are members of a labor board appointed by governors, some with the approval of a state legislator. We might find these appointments satisfactory in most cases, but just what criteria is used to select these appointees?
Surprisingly, most labor board members in the United States have no legal or judicial experience. In a recent survey, it was found that the majority of board appointees were businessmen. Not surprisingly, these were people who had played some significant role in the election of the appointing official, and a large percentage of them were heavy financial contributors to the incumbent.
Few had degrees in relevant fields such as labor, sociology, economics, political science or law. Few had been administrative judges, yet a vast majority of them were found to be social associates of the incumbent, including relatives, business partners and favored customers. Among all surveyed, less than one percent had assets less then $200,000, and most were in the upper ten percentile of earners in the U.S.
Given such a constitution, we cannot have much confidence in the belief that the common wage earner, someone making less that $80,000 a year, will have their life experience reflected in the board that makes final decisions that may determine whether a family of four will be allowed to receive subsistence allowance between jobs, whether a business will be held liable for the safety of the disabled, whether racial and other discrimination is being countered in our society.
Most decisions, it was found, go against the laborer. This is not surprising, for it seems a labor board is a bastion, not for the laborer or dispenser of justice for the working man or woman, but a refuge for the status quo, for big or small businesses, for those who control capital and the means of production.
Perhaps, as the economy worsens and the potential for internecine strife increases, those who appoint members to a labor board will consider the advantages of placing someone in these positions who might have greater sensitivity to the poor, the hard working men and women who provide the dollars that apparently keep the financial backbone of America above water.
We shall know this has occurred when, instead of having more than 70% of the decisions go against the working man or woman, big and small businesses alike begin to be held accountable by the board whose purpose it is to assure justice, not only for the rich and well to do, but also for the middle class and the poor.