Becker NLRB confirmation would help labor groups forcibly unionize critics say

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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If President Barack Obama’s attempt to get the Senate to approve his re-nomination of former high-ranking AFL-CIO and SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is successful, it will likely allow unions around the country to forcibly open companies’ doors to labor organizers, and companies won’t be able to do anything to stop them.

The five-member board has historically been a place for riffs between left-leaning members and right-leaning members, but U.S. Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative executive director Glenn Spencer said Becker’s influence has shifted it from an arbiter of the law to a pro-union advocacy group.

“Based on his activities on the board, it shouldn’t be a tough call for senators from both parties to again reject this nomination,” Spencer told The Daily Caller in an e-mail. All 47 Republican Senators have called for Obama to rescind Becker’s nomination but no Democrats have come out against Becker.

Spencer said that, if confirmed, Becker would be in a position to continue skewing the mission of the NLRB in determining what’s allowed and what isn’t when it comes to neutrality agreement disputes between union bosses and corporate executives.

“The NLRB seems to have forgotten its mission to impartially administer the law and now appears focused on expanding union ranks at all costs,” Spencer said. “Whether it’s promoting card check, expanding union access to private property, allowing micro-units of employees to organize, or restrictions on employer free speech, this is a course at odds with the administration’s welcome focus on jobs and sensible regulation.”

Becker is currently serving on the NLRB until the end of 2011 as a result of a recess appointment by President Obama in March 2010. His original nomination was filibustered in February 2010 with the help of newly elected Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown and two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and former Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Neutrality agreements are supposed to be written deals that let a union’s organizers talk to employees about the supposed benefits of unionization without corporate interference. But it’s not that straightforward when a former union boss is the arbiter that determines what’s fair play and what isn’t in unionization negotiations.

Unions use neutrality agreements as a tool to increase membership. Americans for Limited Government president Bill Wilson told TheDC unions will scare companies with boycotts and smear campaigns to make them sign the agreements. Wilson also pointed out that Obama’s Department of Labor has shown that it will use its different enforcement arms to push companies into taking actions that abet union bosses.

Wilson said that once the union has a neutrality agreement in place, they show up on the company’s premises and control the message. Dissenters are threatened, he said, and the truth about unions doesn’t surface until long after the organizers get their way.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy labor expert Paul Kersey told TheDC neutrality agreements open the door for even more union trickery, election fraud and document forgery than is usually the case because the companies generally can’t really say or do anything to stop them by any other means than appealing to the NLRB. Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mike Enzi of Wyoming said in their letter to Obama asking that he rescind Becker’s nomination that Becker has proven he has no interest in impartiality, by refusing to recuse himself in 12 out of 13 cases that involved his former employers. Kersey said companies are at a disadvantage when they have issues with union bosses because the NLRB is the only place they can turn to handle a potential dispute.

Kersey said the Obama administration tried to pay back the unions via the Employee Free Choice Act last year, but was unable to push Congress to pass the legislation. So, Kersey says the administration has to pay back the unions some other way.

“That legislation died, but the Obama administration is determined to help unions in any way they can,” Kersey said in a phone interview. “The administration will use enforcement arms to pressure companies into signing neutrality agreements and card-check.”

Wilson said Becker’s actions and statements show he really doesn’t care about workers – he cares more about making sure the unions get their membership. Wilson considers the unions and government working together a “shakedown operation,” comparable to “when the mob asks for protection money.”

“When you’ve had union guys like Becker in charge, you’ve seen the NLRB pushing the workers out of the way to let the unions get control,” Wilson told TheDC. “The National Labor Relations Act [the law the NLRB was created to protect] is supposed to be protecting the interests of workers. The workers have no say here. This is a sweetheart deal between employers and unions, leaving the workers out of the conversation.”

A nurse who went through forcible unionization via a neutrality agreement at her Hospital Corporation of America hospital told TheDC that she thought she and her fellow nurses had a choice in the matter. But she soon learned that, when the California Nurses Association (CNA) wanted to unionize her hospital, organizers would stop at nothing to get their way.

“I asked this union organizer, and this was before I became trouble for them, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t get us unionized?’” the nurse, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of union retribution, told TheDC. “She said, ‘We’ll come back in three years and we’ll come back every three years.’”

She said organizers were everywhere, but nobody was reminding her colleagues about how there weren’t really major problems they couldn’t solve without the union.

“I mean dozens and dozens and dozens of organizers were all over the entire campus, morning, noon and night, morning, noon and night,” she said. “They were just everywhere. You couldn’t get away from them.”

She said they joked about how they were supposed to be neutral, but really weren’t. She couldn’t even get a place to meet with her co-workers to talk about unions without hospital management there.

“Early in the process, I requested to have a conference room so that me and some other nurses could just talk about this union thing without the organizers there and they denied me. The hospital denied me,” she said. “Everybody is gagged at this time, all administration is gagged and all frontline managers are gagged.”

The SEIU and California Nurses Association did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.