Outgoing Democratic NLRB chairwoman: Conservatives attacking Board with ‘baseball bat’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Outgoing National Labor Relations Board chairwoman Wilma Liebman thinks critics of the NLRB’s recent policies have blown their complaints “grossly out of proportion to what has happened and what has been done.”

“We knew we were going to have a boxing match, but we didn’t expect our opponents to come in with a baseball bat,” Liebman, a Democrat, told The New York Times.

The NLRB has come under fire during President Obama’s administration for favoring unions. The Board has traditionally swung with political tides, but critics say this time around it’s different. The NLRB has plowed forward with unprecedented cases, including one against The Boeing Company for opening a new plant in South Carolina, and pushed new pro-union regulations like “quickie elections.” (RELATED: GOP may pick up leverage, momentum in NLRB battle)

Even so, Liebman thinks perceptions of pro-union extremism within the NLRB aren’t accurate.

“The perception of this agency as doing radical things is mystifying to me,” Liebman continued. “The rhetoric is so overheated.”

Times reporter Steven Greenhouse went a step further than Liebman and likened the “rhetoric” she references to an onslaught of “vitriol.” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha did not answer when The Daily Caller asked how Greenhouse determined the “rhetoric” being used against the NLRB was “vitriol.” He did not cite a source.

Ironically, in 2007 numerous union members and labor leaders marched from AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. to the NLRB’s offices calling for the agency to be shut down.

Shortly after taking over as chairwoman of the NLRB, Liebman criticized previous boards for being weak on labor policy and announced plans to rehash how the Board operated.

“The stars are quite aligned, especially with a Democratic president and Congress and the economic crisis,” Liebman said, according to the Communist Party USA-affiliated People’s World. “We’re back in the mode of considering government regulation — and the role of unions and labor law in building of the middle class.”

Liebman was the last NLRB member left over from the previous administration. Former President Bill Clinton first appointed her in 1997, and President George W. Bush reappointed her in 2002 and 2006. Before working in government, Liebman spent more than a decade as a top lawyer for two different international unions: the Teamsters and the Bricklayers.

In 2009, on his first day in office, Obama named Liebman the chairwoman of the NLRB. Obama has gone on to recess appoint former SEIU and AFL-CIO lawyer Craig Becker and pro-union lawyer Mark Gaston Pearce to the board. Obama also appointed the lone Republican NLRB member: Brian Hayes.

As a major critic of Big Labor and the NLRB’s new overreaching and unprecedented policies, Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute told The Daily Caller that he’s okay with being accused of “vitriolic rhetoric” if that’s what it takes to point out how pro-union the NLRB has become. He said Obama’s appointments to the NLRB show that he thinks it’s supposed to be a political activist organization, not a neutral arbiter of labor law disputes.

“When Barack Obama appointed Big Labor cronies to the NLRB it was a clear sign of his intention to create a very activist board which would allow the administration to payback union bosses even if legislation in Congress advancing their causes was thwarted,” Wszolek said. “If they thought we were all going to sit idly by and let them run roughshod over the rights of workers and small business owners, they were mistaken. And if it takes a Louisville Slugger to get their attention, so be it. We will not back down.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce labor policy expert Glenn Spencer adds that while he won’t comment on how other groups criticize the Board, he thinks “[t]he NLRB is using the regulatory process to tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor, and fostering economic uncertainty in the process.”

“America’s job creators certainly view implementing ‘quickie’ elections, potentially authorizing ‘micro-union’ organizing, and pursuing other policies in the spirit of the failed Card Check bill as radical,” Spencer said.

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