Politics

Labor board’s lawyer lauded by the American Bar Association

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

Lawyers at the American Bar Association have given their “lawyer of the year” award to the top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board.

The board is led by President Barack Obama’s appointees, and has tried to derail Boeing’s plan to open a new aircraft factory in South Carolina. It has also changed several rules to help unions draft workers.

These controversial decisions have been adopted amid strong opposition from companies, investors and GOP legislators.

The bar association’s long-standing skew toward the Democrats is so pronounced that it prompted libertarian and conservative lawyers to create their own group, the Federalist Society.

The bar association’s award was granted to Lafe Solomon, the board’s acting general counsel.

“Your career as a dedicated civil servant represents an example and an ideal,” said a statement accompanying the award, granted by two leading lawyers at the bar association.

The award, and the compliments, were given to Solomon despite numerous arguments by GOP legislators, and business-minded lawyers, that the NLRB’s decisions have moved sharply to the left and will constrict employment of the blue collar workers who are supposed to be protected by the board.

These arguments did not prevent the white collar lawyers at the bar association from rewarding Solomon.

“You have developed a reputation for integrity and leadership… Your long and distinguished service to the labor-management community in the federal government deserves recognition,” said Richard Seymour and Steward Manela, the current and pending heads of the association’s section on labor and employment law.

Seymour works as a labor lawyer for a series of Democratic-affiliated groups, and Manela is labor law partner at the Connecticut Ave. office of Arent Fox, a D.C. law and lobbying firm.

In several recent decisions, the board has overturned a 2007 decision that gave workers nationwide the right to protect themselves from bullying and coercive tactics by unions with secret ballot elections.

In a second decision, dubbed the Lamons Gasket case, the NLRB eliminated a 2007 ruling, which critics said protected workers from coercive practices that union organizers often used to bully or mislead employees.

The third decision, dubbed the Dana Corp. decision, allowed pro-union workers to request a secret ballot election within a 45-day window following a “card check” organizing effort.

The card check organizing effort does not require a secret ballot. Instead, union advocates can use social pressure to pressure workers into signing the cards that call for an election. But But if a majority of workers sign the election cards, the union is automatically created without any need for an election, according to the board’s decision.

Matthew Boyle contributed to this article.