Opinion

In new government gig, union attorney is quick to punish employers

Fred Wszolek Spokesman, Workforce Fairness Institute

Wherever Richard Griffin goes, controversy seems to surrounds him. So much so that in his first days as the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel, he decided to punitively assault America’s largest private employer, Walmart.

The NLRB – a so-called independent federal agency – accused Walmart of retaliating against workers who planned to go on strike, a very bold claim to make considering the evidence.

Yet, such incidents are not atypical for Griffin. His recent authorization of a complaint against Walmart is part of a broader trend to undermine the law and pay back his union boss friends who helped put him in a position of power to begin with. Griffin was appointed to his job despite a number of red flags that should have immediately disqualified him from working in the federal government. But the truth is, under President Obama, for the first time the NLRB has actual labor bosses presiding over disputes between unions and businesses.

Prior to joining the Obama Labor Board, Griffin was general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Earlier this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Griffin was “named in a federal complaint filed in October by 10 members of IUOE Local 501, out of Los Angeles, which describes a ‘scheme to defraud [the local] out of revenue, cost savings and membership,’ by means of kickbacks, bribery, violent threats and extortion. The suit names dozens of IUOE officials as defendants, and Mr. Griffin is highlighted in a section describing an embezzlement and its subsequent hush-up.”

If Griffin being named as a defendant in an embezzlement, bribery, kickbacks, and extortion scheme wasn’t enough, than consider his decision to ignore the U.S. Constitution. In January 2012, Griffin was “recess” appointed by President Obama as a board member on the NLRB, an act that generated an enormous amount of criticism not just due to the character of the appointee, but also because of the process undertaken.

Obama circumvented the U.S. Senate approval process by appointing Griffin while Congress was not in recess, but in pro-forma session. As a result, various cases came before the district and circuit court system with questions surrounding the constitutionality of matters decided by Griffin among other Board members. Despite a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — which has direct purview over the NLRB and is recognized as the second most powerful court in the country — finding the President’s recess appointments invalid, Griffin continued issuing decisions and ignored calls for him to step down.

Griffin is now empowered with a powerful position “responsible for the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases.”  However, given his substantial ties to organized labor and having been a boss in a union with ties to the mob, how could Griffin act judiciously? He has spent his career fighting for the very issues that he is now supposed to impartially weigh.

For those who know Griffin’s sordid past, the NLRB’s Walmart action comes as no surprise. But what is equally concerning is that Big Labor knew of Griffin’s decision even before the American people and they felt no inhibition about crowing over it. The Daily Caller reports, “The NLRB didn’t officially release a statement until after 5 p.m. Monday. But prior to that release, reporters at left-leaning websites like ThinkProgress, The Nation and Salon had caught wind of the decision and reported it. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka also trumpeted the Board’s decision a couple of hours before an official statement was released.”

Griffin’s authorization of the complaint against the nation’s largest employer reverberated in the broader business community. It sent a message that the new general counsel of the NLRB is determined to threaten America’s most important companies and he will allow his labor allies to use taxpayer-funded actions to assault job creators. The picture of Big Labor bosses aligning with the U.S. government to attack American businesses should give everyone pause, but unfortunately, it is just another historic achievement by the Obama administration.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI)