TheDC Exclusive: Sens. Hatch and Enzi call for Obama to rescind nomination of former AFL-CIO, SEIU lawyer to NLRB

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Sens. Mike Enzi, Wyoming Republican, and Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, are calling on President Barack Obama to rescind the nomination of former top AFL-CIO and SEIU employee Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In a joint letter to Obama obtained by The Daily Caller, Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and fellow committee member Hatch, wrote that Becker’s conflicts of interest with his previous union employers have led them to believe he is incapable of being a fair arbiter of labor relations.

“We were disappointed that you chose to put Mr. Becker on the Board by recess appointment even after the Senate voted against advancing his nomination,” Hatch and Enzi write in the letter. “After examination of his writings and a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Senate opposed his confirmation because of his record of supporting an expanded role for the NLRB beyond current law without Congressional authorization and his multiple conflicts-of-interest.”

The Senate shot down Obama’s previous attempt to place Becker on the NLRB. His nomination never made it to a full vote as then-newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, helped the GOP hold a filibuster. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas also participated in the Republican filibuster. President Obama ultimately appointed him to the NLRB as a recess appointment in March 2010. An official confirmation would secure Becker’s place on the board for five years instead of just being there until the end of 2011. If the Senate doesn’t confirm him, Becker cannot be recess-appointed again and will lose his place on the NLRB.

In their letter, Enzi and Hatch wrote that Becker has abused his power since his recess appointment and urged the president to reconsider his nomination.

“He has led the Board to re-open and reverse settled decisions, made discrete cases a launching point for broad changes to current labor law, and used an 18 year-old petition to initiate a rulemaking proposal that likely exceeds the Board’s statutory authority,” the letter reads. “At the same time, the NLRB is threatening four states with lawsuits based on constitutional provisions protecting secret-ballot union elections that were adopted by the voters of those states. Yet, the Board has ignored provisions in other states that conflict with federal law but benefit unions over employers, including state laws that restrict employers’ free speech rights during the union organizing process.”

Hatch and Enzi also pointed out that Becker had said that he would recuse himself in cases that involved his previous employers, but that since he’s been on the board, he has only recused himself one time. Becker has been requested to recuse himself 13 times.

Becker’s latest nomination came the day after Obama’s State of the Union speech in which the president called for lifting any governmental restraints on business to help spur the economy and create jobs. “To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations,” Obama said in his speech. “When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.”

But Becker has made waves in the business community for the past couple of years by revisiting previous decisions and has used his power to help labor organizers unionize companies. Since Becker took his spot on the NLRB after the recess appointment, Enzi and Hatch said he has re-opened years-old cases to reverse their decisions and has used cases with otherwise narrow focuses to project broad policy.

Katie Gage of the Workforce Fairness Institute said, by re-nominating Becker, Obama is undermining his attempt to engage the business community.

“In re-nominating Becker, President Obama has sent the message to employers across the country that his rhetoric is just that, and the nation’s chief executive is more concerned with paying back union bosses than turning the economy around,” Gage said in a statement. “We will work with small business owners to ensure the Senate once again rejects the Becker nomination in a bipartisan manner.”

Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government, a nonprofit that’s been vocal about the Obama administration’s labor policy, told TheDC that this appointment shows the president cares more about paying back his labor union supporters than about creating jobs.

“The re-nomination of Craig Becker is just one more example of Obama talking about creating private sector jobs while putting the people like Craig Becker in place who are doing everything in their power to destroy job creation in America,” Manning said. “Becker’s reappointment is a slap in the face to the 14.5 million Americans who are unemployed and should be rejected by the Congress.”