As Boeing factory debate heats up, past writings of NLRB member Craig Becker raise questions

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Several Republican senators penned an open letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday calling on him to immediately rescind National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nominations for Lafe Solomon and former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) general counsel Craig Becker. Their request comes as the NLRB is leading a charge against Boeing for planning to open a non-union factory in South Carolina.

Republican South Carolina Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, along with the other Republican senators who signed the letter, believe Becker and Solomon seek to support labor union bosses at the expense of workers. “The NLRB, at the behest of Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, has taken unprecedented legal action against The Boeing Company to prevent it from expanding productions into South Carolina, a state that assures workers the freedom not to join a union as a condition of employment,” the letter reads. “We consider this an attack on millions of workers in 22 right-to-work states, as well as a government-led act of intimidation against American companies that should have the freedom to choose to build plants in right-to-work states. If the NLRB prevails, it will only encourage companies to make their investments in foreign nations, moving jobs and economic growth overseas.”

Becker and Solomon were both recess-appointed to the NLRB and, in Becker’s case, all 41 Republican senators wrote Obama to urge him not to make Becker’s recess appointment after the Senate rejected his nomination the first time around. Solomon has not yet appeared before the Senate for confirmation.

Old law review articles obtained by The Daily Caller that were authored by Becker further inflame the already heated debate. “The right to engage in concerted activity that is enshrined in the Wagner Act – even when construed in strictly contractual terms – implicitly entails legal restraint of the freedom of capital,” he wrote in the January 1987 edition of the Harvard Law Review. “What threatens to eviscerate labor’s collective legal rights, therefore, is less the common law principle of individual liberty than the mobility of capital, which courts have held immune from popular control.”

“If you cut through all the academic speak here, in effect, what he’s saying is collective bargaining and the Wagner Act doesn’t set up a system of collective bargaining. It sets up a guaranteed outcome,” explained Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson. “What he’s saying here is labor unions can’t possibly succeed unless you guarantee their success. In his reading of the law, any notion of workers who choose to collectively bargain sitting down with their employer and working out a deal is gone.”

Workforce Fairness Institute spokesman Fred Wszolek said Becker’s old law school article is worrisome, given the degree of influence Becker has on the economy and on future labor policy.

“To learn that a member of President Obama’s labor board believes that the United States should somehow control or restrain the freedom of capital, or that the mobility of capital not being under ‘popular control’ is somehow a threat to Big Labor is simply not consistent with core American values,” Wszolek said in an email to TheDC. “The fact that Craig Becker will be one of the board members deciding whether the complaint against Boeing has any merit is something that should alarm every taxpayer and business in this nation concerned with jobs and the economy.”

The Republican senators who signed the letter to President Obama said if Obama doesn’t immediately rescind Becker and Solomon’s nominations, they’ll use all the power at their disposal to combat them. “In light of the NLRB’s recent actions that would have a deleterious effect on job creation and economic opportunity across the country, it is time to hold the NLRB accountable,” they wrote. “We urge you to withdraw both Mr. Solomon’s and Mr. Becker’s nominations to their respective positions immediately. If not, we will vigorously oppose both nominations, vote against cloture and use all procedural tools available to defeat their confirmation in the Senate.”