Today’s NLRB hearing shows nominations have consequences

Long before the federal government’s unprecedented attack on Boeing began, President Obama’s National Labor Relations Board launched itself on a crash course with our country’s economic recovery.
The first step came in the nomination of Craig Becker, and, as he pushes the federal government into uncharted territory to bail out Big Labor during Monday’s NLRB hearing, we are reminded why nominations matter for public policy.

Few Americans have heard of Becker but many have heard of one of his former employers, the Service Employees International Union. It is widely viewed as the most aggressive private-sector union. It used member dues to become a primary bankroller of the president’s 2008 election campaign, as well as those of many Democrats in Congress.

All SEIU and their Big Labor brethren have asked of Obama and the Democrats in return for their financial consideration is, simply, everything. Their first opportunity for political payback was the legislative version of card check, the inaptly named Employee Free Choice Act that would have abolished the secret ballot in workplace representation elections.

When that failed, they looked to Obama’s NLRB to accomplish the underlying goal of card check — to force unionization by ensuring employees have little information and employers have little opportunity to discuss the issue with employees.

Enter Becker, whose NLRB nomination by Obama was immediately controversial, so much so that the Senate rejected it. Desperate to please his Big Labor benefactors, however, Obama ignored the concerns raised during the nomination hearing and recess-appointed Becker, who is now working his radical agenda into policy.

Before joining NLRB, Becker infamously wrote that it should be possible to “eliminate the formal role of employers in union elections,” and argued that “employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case, even though Board rulings might indirectly affect their duty to bargain.”

Becker’s plan is clear: Remove, as much as possible, the ability of employers to talk to employees and operate their business.

It appears Becker is making manifest his radical vision in which employers have little ability to discuss core workplace issues, such as unionization and its attendant costs, with employees.

Thus the NLRB’s already-rushed hearing Monday on its recently announced effort to speed up the current workplace representation election process so much that it will leave employers as few as 10 days to respond to and discuss the issue with employees.

Becker’s early thoughts even telegraphed specific functions of what has become his NLRB legacy. “Employers should have no right to raise questions concerning voter eligibility or campaign conduct,” he wrote.

Lo and behold, the proposed NLRB ruling would effectively strip employers of the right to raise questions of employee voting eligibility until it’s too late.

Finally, should the efforts of the NLRB not sufficiently devastate the right of employers to discuss union issues with employees, Obama appointees at the Department of Labor have concocted their own proposed rule (conveniently introduced just a single day apart from the NLRB’s rule) that would have a chilling effect on employers, especially small businesses, that seek legal counsel.

These recent developments, taken with the attack on Boeing, have disappointed those employers who have attempted to work with the administration and Congress to ensure that smart regulation aids, rather than blocks, economic growth.

It is time for Obama to rein in his out-of-control appointees and for all of us to more closely examine the nominees who seek to reshape our labor landscape.

Geoffrey Burr was a political appointee at the Department of Labor under President George W. Bush. He is now chairman of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace