President Obama has nominated the SEIU Purple Shirts’ associate general counsel, Craig Becker, to a slot on the National Labor Relations Board. Today, the Senate HELP Committee cleared him through on a 15-8 vote without a hearing. GOP Senators Mike Enzi
(for whom Becker served as a labor counsel) [correction: the GOP NLRB nominee Brian Hayes worked for Enzi] and Lisa Murkowski voted with the Democrats. Shopfloor has more.
Becker, as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation points out, “has radical views on the extent of union coercive power, and he comes directly out of the all-powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) whose bosses have been as thick as thieves with the notoriously corrupt Big Labor front group ACORN.” The WSJ called Becker “Andy Stern’s go-to guy:”
In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, he explained that traditional notions of democracy should not apply in union elections. He wrote that employers should be barred from attending NLRB hearings about elections, and from challenging election results even amid evidence of union misconduct. He believes elections should be removed from work sites and held on “neutral grounds,” or via mail ballots. Employers should also be barred from “placing observers at the polls to challenge ballots.”
More extraordinary, Mr. Becker advocated a new “body of campaign rules” that would severely limit the ability of employers to argue against unionization. He argued that any meeting a company holds that involves a “captive audience” ought to be grounds for overturning an election. If a company wants to distribute leaflets that oppose the union, for example, Mr. Becker said it must allow union access to its private property to do the same.
Mr. Becker isn’t clear about which of these rules can be implemented by NLRB fiat, and which would require an act of Congress, but his mindset is clear enough. He’s willing to push NLRB discretion as far as possible to tilt today’s labor rules in favor of easier unionization.
Union leaders argue that they need these rule changes because they are at a disadvantage during elections. But a new report from the Bureau of National Affairs shows unions winning 67% of private ballot representation elections conducted by the NLRB in 2008, the highest rate since BNA began analyzing data in 1984. Meanwhile, 95% of all elections are conducted within 56 days of a union petition filing, with a median of 38 days. This suggests that the real union problem is that most workers don’t want a union election in the first place. Employees are well aware of what has happened to the steel, auto and other heavily unionized industries.
One of the many accusations leveled against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is that he accepted money from the SEIU in return for taking actions giving collective bargaining rights to Illinois home health-care workers. While Mr. Becker denies any knowledge of, or role in, contributions to the former Governor, he does admit that he provided “advice and counsel to SEIU relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law.”
Mr. Becker says he “worked with and provided advice” to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago, a beneficiary of the newly unionized health workers, and one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with Acorn. Mr. Becker denies working for Acorn or its affiliates, but as recently as April Acorn co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name, noting “For my money, Craig’s signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers, and by this I mean home health-care workers.”
Home health providers in Illinois beat back these schemes at the state level. Will more Republicans like Enzi and Murkowski join in siding with the Big Labor forces that are bent on using any means necessary to boost their membership rolls and keep a Democrat majority in perpetuity?