Craig Becker, one of Barack Obama’s three nominations to the National Labor Relations Board will have a hearing before the Senate HELP Committee next week, marking a victory for John McCain and the Republicans.
John McCain is two for two. After placing a hold on Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board last year, the Senate returned Becker’s nomination to the White House. And after Becker’s Obama renominated Becker, McCain again insisted on the nearly unprecedented step of a formal hearing for a member of the NLRB. The last time an NLRB nominee had a hearing was in 1994 for a new Chairman of the Board. Becker, by contrast, is up for one of three regular vacancies.
McCain’s chief complaints with Becker in his letter seeking a hearing are that he favors workers’ rights – a ridiculous complaint to make about a union attorney nominated by a Democratic President to the National Labor Relations Board.
With the new opportunity afforded to us by Mr. Becker’s nomination being resubmitted to the Senate, it is critical that we conduct a full committee hearing on this important nomination.
The NLRB is a bipartisan body that has the crucial task of overseeing, in a balanced fashion, our nation’s workplace laws government by the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB supervises union organization campaigns and addresses unfair labor practices by unions and employers. Through its rulings and activities the NLRB, in essence, forms the nation’s labor-management relations policy for employers and unions.
As you know, Mr. Becker has a long career of writings and activities that suggest his views concerning labor-management relations are far outside the mainstream in America. As such, I have serious questions about whether Mr. Becker has the ability to fairly consider important cases that come before the NLRB.
So Tom Harkin caved to McCain’s request and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon in what is expected to be a contentious hearing. Republican Senators will use the hearing as a proxy fight for the Employee Free Choice Act, and the bulk of their questions will center on Becker’s beliefs on the role in corporations in union organizing, as well as Becker’s view of the NLRB as an activist policy tool. Basically, the GOP aims to stir up fear that confirming Becker to the NLRB means passing the Employee Free Choice Act de facto. Of course, there’s nothing to suggest that either Becker aims to do so or even if he believes the NLRB could make such policies. Regardless, the GOP hopes to bring down Becker with the Employee Free Choice Act.
And let’s not forget that so long as Becker is held up, or even voted down, the NLRB will continue to have three of its five seats vacant. NLRB nominations were put into “packages” starting with the Clinton administration in order to ease through single nominations that got held up. The idea was that by putting multiple bipartisan Board nominees together, both parties could agree to pass nominations from both sides. The problem now is, the modern GOP has no qualms about an empty NLRB, because they have no concerns for workers.
The Nation has more on the consequences of these vacancies:
To date, none of Obama’s three appointees have been confirmed by the Senate; they remain mired in political quicksand. Without a stronger push from the White House, few are expecting this battle to conclude anytime soon. And without more pressure from unions, the grassroots and labor-supportive Beltway forces, the Obama administration feels little compulsion to move.
In the meantime, few beyond labor insiders even know what’s going on. The saga of the NLRB nominations has stayed out of the spotlight, except for right-wing blogs and unionbusting law firms’ newsletters sent to employers. On January 14 the New York Times reported that the NLRB, with only two of its five members seated for the past two years, has become near comatose. Not only are there a very high number of tie votes on disputed issues but the legal validity of the decisions issued by those two members, even when they agree, is currently the subject of conflicting federal court decisions. In May the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that because two members do not constitute a quorum of a five-person board, the NLRB decisions currently being issued are not legally binding. That issue is pending before the Supreme Court but is not likely to be resolved soon.
We’ll be liveblogging Tuesday’s confirmation hearings for sure. Stay tuned.