Obama rewards unions with key labor appointee

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama on Saturday gave organized labor a big payback for its help in pushing his health-care reform across the finish line, unilaterally appointing a controversial pro-union attorney to the body that arbitrates the rules for union elections, after his nomination attracted bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

Coming just a few days after the president’s health-care plan was passed into law despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans in Congress and strong disapproval in most public opinion polls, the move promised to only heighten political tension in Washington.

Obama, using what is known as a recess appointment, placed Craig Becker, the associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union, on the National Labor Relations Board. Becker was one of 15 recess appointments announced by the White House Saturday afternoon, a time guaranteed to attract less news coverage and attention than during the work week.

The president has the power to appoint without Congressional approval while the body is not in session, and it is a tool that virtually all presidents have used to one degree or another. The White House pointed out in a release that President George W. Bush had made 15 recess appointments at about this point in his presidency.

The caveat is that recess appointments expire. Becker’s seat on the five-member NLRB — whose board members usually have five-year terms — will run out at the end of 2011, the White House said.

But Becker’s appointment drew strong denunciations from Republicans because his overt pro-union disposition and former writings have convinced many that Becker will push provisions making it easier for employees to unionize through the NLRB, instead of the White House having to move such actions through Congress.

“In his January State of the Union address, President Obama pledged that he would work in a bipartisan fashion to confront the challenges facing our nation. Instead of living up to that pledge, the President today ignored the Senate’s bipartisan rejection of a highly-controversial nominee,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican.

All 41 Republican senators sent a letter to the president Thursday urging him not to recess appoint Becker.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the president was “overriding the will of the Senate.”

“This is the first time since 1993 that the Chamber has opposed a nominee to the NLRB. The Chamber’s opposition is based on Mr. Becker’s prolific writings, which suggest a radical view of labor law that flies in the face of established precedent and case law and is far outside the mainstream,” said Randel Johnson, the Chamber’s senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits.

The Obama administration has increasingly looked to the NLRB as the forum in which to accomplish its pro-labor goals, rather than through Congress, after support for the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as “card check,” dissipated last year.

Hatch said that Becker “believes that card check legislation can be implemented through regulation.”

The NLRB has had three vacancies since December 2007, due to political wrangling that dates back to the Bush administration’s acrimonious relationship with the Democratic-controlled Congress. In addition to Becker, Obama also used his recess appointment powers to place Mark Pearce, another labor attorney, on the NLRB.

Obama has appointed a Republican, former Senate staffer Brian Hayes, to the NLRB, but did not put him on the body with a recess appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, called it a “stunning” move to “recess appoint two Democrat nominees to the NLRB and leave the Republican behind.”

“This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel,” McConnell said.

Senate Democratic leaders brought up a motion in February to end debate on Becker’s nomination and bring it to the floor for a vote. But the cloture motion did not receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, with two Democrats joining 31 Democrats in voting against Becker.

Another 10 Republicans did not vote on the motion, along with four Democrats and one Independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki cited the vacancies on the NLRB as justification for Becker’s appointment, calling him a “a widely respected legal scholar and expert labor law practitioner.”

“There have been vacancies on the NLRB for two years and Becker’s nomination has been held up by a Republican filibuster for months,” Psaki said via e-mail. “A majority of senators support his confirmation.”

The AFL-CIO, said spokesman Eddie Vale, was “very pleased that such a qualified nominee is finally seated on the board.”

“The only shame is that Republican obstructionism made it take this long,” he said by e-mail.

Here is the full list of recess appointments, as released by the White House:

Jeffrey Goldstein: Nominee for Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, Department of the Treasury
Jeffrey Goldstein is a former Managing Director of Hellman & Friedman LLC, a private equity investment firm with offices in San Francisco, New York and London. Mr. Goldstein served at the World Bank from 1999 to 2004, where he served as Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer. He oversaw the Bank’s work with its client countries in strengthening financial and capital market systems. Mr. Goldstein was the Bank’s point person on the International Development Association (IDA). He also helped lead the Bank’s relationship with the G-8 countries. As Chief Financial Officer, he was responsible for the Bank’s financial operations and budget. He was the Bank’s representative on the Financial Stability Forum and on the International Monetary Fund’s Capital Markets Consultative Group and Chairman of the Pension Finance Committee. Prior to joining the World Bank, Mr. Goldstein was Co-Chairman of BT Wolfensohn and a member of the Bankers Trust Company Management Committee. He held senior management positions and worked with BT Wolfensohn and its predecessor, James D. Wolfensohn Incorporated, for more than 15 years. Early in his career, Mr. Goldstein taught economics at Princeton University and worked at the Brookings Institution and the U. S. Department of the Treasury. Mr. Goldstein received his Ph.D., M.Phil., and M.A. in economics from Yale University. He received his B.A. with honors in economics from Vassar College (Phi Beta Kappa) and attended the London School of Economics. Mr. Goldstein is a member of the Board of LPL Holdings Inc., AlixPartners LLP and Grosvenor Capital Management and the Board of Trustees of the International Center for Research on Women. He is also on the Board of Trustees of Vassar College and is Chairman of the Vassar College Investments Committee. He is also a member of the Brookings Institution Global Leadership Council, The London School of Economics North American Advisory Board and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Michael F. Mundaca: Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, Department of the Treasury
Michael F. Mundaca currently is Senior Advisor for Policy within the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy and the Acting Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy. Mr. Mundaca served in the Treasury Department during the Clinton Administration and returned to the Treasury Department in 2007, as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs. Before that appointment, he was a partner for five years in the International Tax Services group of Ernst & Young’s National Tax Department, in Washington, D.C. His practice focused on cross-border planning and structuring, including especially tax treaty issues, and on international legislative and regulatory monitoring and consulting. Before joining Ernst & Young, Mr. Mundaca served for over five years in Treasury’s Office of the International Tax Counsel, leaving as the Deputy International Tax Counsel. He was also Treasury’s Senior Advisor on Electronic Commerce. Prior to that first stint in Treasury, he was an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, a law firm in New York. Mr. Mundaca has been an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, teaching a seminar on tax treaties. Mr. Mundaca received a B.A. in philosophy and in physics from Columbia University, in 1986, and an M.A.in philosophy from the University of Chicago, in 1988. He received a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), in 1992, where he was Senior Executive Editor of The California Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. He also has an LL.M., in taxation (international tax specialization), from the University of Miami.

Eric L. Hirschhorn: Nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration and head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce
Eric Hirschhorn, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Winston & Strawn LLP, long has been active in the areas of international law, litigation, and professional responsibility. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce (1980-81), Mr. Hirschhorn oversaw U.S. export controls for items having commercial as well as military applications, antiboycott compliance, restraints on imports for national security reasons, and the Department’s participation in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Earlier, while a member of President Jimmy Carter’s reorganization project staff (1977-80), he worked on reorganizing the government’s international trade, public diplomacy, and foreign assistance mechanisms. Before working in the Executive branch, Mr. Hirschhorn held several congressional staff positions, was in private law practice in New York City, and was a legal services lawyer. Mr. Hirschhorn has represented clients on a wide range of commercial and regulatory matters since returning to private law practice in 1981. He is Executive Secretary of the Industry Coalition on Technology Transfer (ICOTT), a group whose industry participants are affected by U.S. export control and embargo rules. He is the author of The Export Control and Embargo Handbook, Second Edition, published in 2004, and numerous articles on export controls, embargoes and related topics. He chairs the D.C. Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee and is a member (and former chair) of the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee. He also is a member of the New York City Bar Association and the Thurgood Marshall American Inn of Court. Mr. Hirschhorn received his B.A. degree from the University of Chicago and a J.D. degree from Columbia University, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.

Michael Punke: Nominee for Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative
Michael Punke has worked in the field of international trade law and policy for two decades. From 1995 to 1996, Punke served as Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. There, he advised the USTR on issues ranging from agricultural trade to intellectual property protection. From 1993 to 1995, Punke served at the White House as Director for International Economic Affairs with a joint appointment to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. His responsibilities included assisting in the management of the interagency process. From 1991 to 1992, Punke was International Trade Counsel to Senator Max Baucus, then Chairman of the Finance Committee’s International Trade Subcommittee. Punke has also worked on international trade issues from the private sector, including as a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, & Maw. From 2003 to 2009, Punke advised clients on trade issues through out of Missoula, Montana. Since January 2010, Punke has served as a Consultant to the U.S. Trade Representative. He also has worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Montana and as a writer, authoring a novel, two books of nonfiction, and two screenplays. Punke is a graduate of George Washington University and Cornell Law School, where he was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell International Law Journal.
Francisco “Frank” J. Sánchez: Nominee for Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce
Francisco J. Sánchez currently serves as a Senior Advisor to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on international trade issues. He served as a Policy Advisor on Latin America to the Obama For America campaign. He was also the Chairman of the campaign’s National Hispanic Leadership Council. In 1999, Sanchez became a Special Assistant to President Clinton, working in the Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas. While at the White House, Sanchez worked with the National Security Council, the State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative. Clinton later appointed Sánchez as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Transportation where he developed aviation policy and oversaw international negotiations. Prior to his work in the federal government, Sánchez practiced corporate and administrative law with the firm of Steel, Hector and Davis in Miami, Florida. Before practicing law, he served in the administration of former Florida Governor (and later U.S. Senator) Bob Graham, as the first director of the state’s Caribbean Basin Initiative Program. For the last 15 years, Sanchez has worked with several consulting companies on projects involving complex transactions, labor-management negotiations, litigation settlement, negotiation strategy, alliance management, facilitation and training, most recently as a partner with CM Partners. Among his public-sector engagements, Sánchez headed a team in Medellín, Colombia as part of a “Teaching Tolerance” program. He also advised the president of Ecuador in negotiations to settle the 56-year-old border dispute with Peru. He is a contributing author to Negociación 2000, a collection of essays on negotiation published by McGraw-Hill. A Florida native, Mr. Sánchez attended the University of Florida, received his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Islam A. Siddiqui: Nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Islam A. Siddiqui is currently Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, where he is responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals. Previously, Dr. Siddiqui also served as CropLife America’s Vice President for agricultural biotechnology and trade. From 1997 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqui served in various capacities in the Clinton Administration at U.S. Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. As a result, he worked closely with the USTR and represented USDA in bilateral, regional and multi-lateral agricultural trade negotiations. Since 2004, Dr. Siddiqui has also served on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, and Health/Science Products & Services, which advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and USTR on international trade issues related to these sectors. Between 2001 and 2003, Dr. Siddiqui was appointed as Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he focused on agricultural biotechnology and food security issues. Before joining USDA, Dr. Siddiqui spent 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He received a B.S. degree in plant protection from Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar, India, as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology, both from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Alan D. Bersin: Nominee for Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security
Alan Bersin was appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano in April, 2009 as Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In that capacity, he serves as the Secretary’s lead representative on Border Affairs and Mexico, for developing DHS strategy regarding security, immigration, narcotics, and trade matters affecting Mexico and for coordinating the Secretary’s security initiatives on the nation’s borders. Prior to his current service, Bersin served as Chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Previously, Mr. Bersin served as California’s Secretary of Education between July 2005 and December 2006 in the Administration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Between 1998 and 2005, he served as Superintendent of Public Education in San Diego and from 2000 to 2003 served as a member and then Chairman of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Prior to becoming the leader of the nation’s eighth largest urban school district, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California and confirmed in that capacity by the U.S. Senate. Mr. Bersin served as U.S. Attorney for nearly five years and as the Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative responsible for coordinating federal law enforcement on the border from South Texas to Southern California. Mr. Bersin previously was a senior partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Mr. Bersin received his A.B. in Government from Harvard University (magna cum laude) and attended Balliol College at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1974, he received his J.D. degree from the Yale Law School.:

Jill Long Thompson: Nominee for Member, Farm Credit Administration Board
Jill Long Thompson is a former Member of the United States House of Representatives and the former Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture. She also served as Chief Executive Officer and Senior Fellow at The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, a not-for-profit, non-advocacy research and policy organization. She is the first and only woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Governor in Indiana, as well as the first and only Hoosier woman to be nominated by a major party to run for the United States Senate. Long Thompson joined the faculty at Valparaiso University in 1981 and in 1983 was elected to the City Council. In 1989 Long Thompson was elected to represent Northeast Indiana in Congress. She went on to serve three terms in the House, where she was a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She introduced one of the nation’s first pieces of legislation banning Members of Congress from accepting gifts and expanding the disclosure requirements for lobbying activities. After leaving Congress, Long Thompson was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as the Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture. In her five years at USDA, she oversaw a $10 billion annual budget and 7,000 employees while managing a number of programs that provide services to the underserved areas of rural America. Long Thompson earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Valparaiso University and an M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Business from the Kelley School at Indiana University.

Rafael Borras: Nominee for Under Secretary for Management , Department of Homeland Security
Rafael Borras currently serves as a Vice President, Construction Services, for the Mid-Atlantic Region with URS Corporation, a global engineering services firm. Prior to joining the URS, Mr. Borras served as the Regional Administrator for the Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S. General Services Administration. Prior to serving in this position, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mr. Borras also served as Deputy City Manager in the City of Hartford, Connecticut, where he was responsible for the departments of finance, police, fire, code enforcement, information technology, purchasing, budget, and human relations. Mr. Borras began his public sector career with Metropolitan Dade County Government, serving in the Office of the County Administrator as an administrative officer.

Craig Becker: Nominee for Board Member, National Labor Relations Board
Craig Becker currently serves as Associate General Counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale College in 1978 and received his J.D. in 1981 from Yale Law School where he was an Editor of the Yale Law Journal. After law school he clerked for the Honorable Donald P. Lay, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. For the past 27 years, he has practiced and taught labor law. He was a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law between 1989 and 1994 and has also taught at the University of Chicago and Georgetown Law Schools. He has published numerous articles on labor and employment law in scholarly journals, including the Harvard Law Review and Chicago Law Review, and has argued labor and employment cases in virtually every federal court of appeals and before the United States Supreme Court.

Mark Pearce: Nominee for Board Member, National Labor Relations Board
Mark Gaston Pearce has been a labor lawyer for his entire career. He is one of the founding partners of the Buffalo, New York law firm of Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux where he practices union side labor and employment law before state and federal courts and agencies including the N.Y.S. Public Employment Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board. Pearce in 2008 was appointed by the NYS Governor to serve as a Board Member on the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals, an independent quasi-judicial agency responsible for review of certain rulings and compliance orders of the NYS Department of Labor in matters including wage and hour law. Pearce has taught several courses in the labor studies program at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations Extension. He is a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Prior to 2002, Pearce practiced union side labor law and employment law at Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria LLP. From 1979 to 1994, he was an attorney and District Trial Specialist for the NLRB in Buffalo, NY. Pearce received his J.D. from State University of New York, and his B.A. from Cornell University.

Jacqueline A. Berrien, Nominee for Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Ms. Berrien has served as Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) since September 2004. In that position, she assists with the direction and implementation of LDF’s national legal advocacy and scholarship programs. Ms. Berrien served from 2001 to 2004 as a Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program, where she administered more than $13 million of grants to promote greater political participation by underrepresented groups and remove barriers to civic engagement. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation, Ms. Berrien was an Assistant Counsel with LDF and directed the Fund’s voting rights and political participation work. For eight years before that, Ms. Berrien was a staff attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. Berrien has also taught in trial advocacy programs at Fordham and Harvard law schools and served on the adjunct faculty of New York Law School. She began her legal career clerking for the Honorable U.W. Clemon, the first African-American appointed to the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama. Ms. Berrien is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as a General Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree with High Honors in Government from Oberlin College and also completed a major in English.

Chai R. Feldblum: Nominee for Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Chai Feldblum is a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center where she has taught since 1991. She also founded the Law Center’s Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic, a program designed to train students to become legislative lawyers. Feldblum previously served as Legislative Counsel to the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. In this role, she developed legislation, analyzed policy on various AIDS-related issues, and played a leading role in the drafting of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and, later as a law professor, in the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. She has also worked on advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and has been a leading expert on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. As Co-Director of Workplace Flexibility 2010, Feldblum has worked to advance flexible workplaces in a manner that works for employees and employers. Feldblum clerked for Judge Frank Coffin and for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and B.A. from Barnard College.

Victoria A. Lipnic: Nominee for Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Victoria A. Lipnic is of counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. Ms. Lipnic was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards from 2002 until 2009. In addition to her work with the Department of Labor, Ms. Lipnic’s experience in Washington, D.C. includes service as Workforce Policy Counsel to the Republican members of the Education and Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before her work for Congress, Ms. Lipnic acted as in-house counsel for labor and employment matters to the U.S. Postal Service for six years. She also served as a special assistant for business liaison to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Malcolm Baldrige. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Allegheny College and a Juris Doctor degree from George Mason University School of Law.

P. David Lopez: Nominee for General Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
David Lopez has served at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for 13 years in the field and at headquarters. He began at the EEOC in 1994 as a Special Assistant to Commissioner Casellas. Currently, Mr. Lopez is a Supervisory Trial Attorney with the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. During his tenure, Mr. Lopez has successfully tried several cases on behalf of the EEOC in a wide variety of legal bases. Before joining the Commission, Mr. Lopez served at the Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. from 1991 to 1994. From 1988 to 1991, he was an Associate with Spiegel and McDiarmid. Mr. Lopez received a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1988 and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Arizona State University in 1985, magna cum laude.