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McCain vows to hold up labor board nominee (Click Here)


WASHINGTON — Another Obama administration nominee is facing a GOP roadblock over his ties to labor unions.

Arizona Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he would place a hold on the confirmation of union lawyer Craig Becker to join the National Labor Relations Board, saying Becker might try to make labor laws more union friendly without congressional approval.

McCain made his comments just minutes before a Senate panel voted 15-8 to approve Becker’s nomination. Under Senate rules, a single lawmaker can block a full vote on the Senate floor.

“This is probably the most controversial nominee that I have seen in a long time,” McCain said. His remarks echoed complaints by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of business groups that claim Becker’s views are “out of the mainstream.”

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, called Becker “one of the pre-eminent labor law thinkers in the United States” and said he was confident Becker would approach the job “with an impartial and open mind.”

Earlier this month, the committee’s top Republican, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, placed a hold on Obama’s nominee for the No. 3 post at the Department of Labor. Enzi said Patricia Smith misled lawmakers about her role in creating a New York program that encourages labor unions to help uncover wage-and-hour violations.

While the NLRB is one of the lesser-known federal agencies, its role as referee of conflicts between unions and management makes it a lightning rod for political fights between business interests and organized labor. Political wrangling in the Senate has left the five-member board with three vacancies for nearly two years.

The fight over Becker is an early skirmish in the broader debate over efforts to pass legislation that would make it easier to form unions. The Employee Free Choice Act has stalled in the Senate, but business groups say some of Becker’s writings indicate he would try to implement parts of the bill through board action.

Harkin compared Becker’s law review articles to a professor trying to stimulate broader thinking. He said Becker understands the difference between being “an intellectual advocate” and serving on the board.

The committee on Wednesday cleared two other NLRB nominees — Democrat Mark Pearce and Republican Brian Hayes — by unanimous consent.

Posted by Admin on 10/23 at 02:56 PM

Sen. Lincoln: Unions, businesses need to hash out ‘card check’ dispute, not lawmakers (Click Here)

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Monday that business and labor groups, not lawmakers, should be the ones to work out a compromise on a union organizing bill.

The Democrat said she still opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and doesn’t believe the federal legislation should be considered while lawmakers are dealing with health care and other issues. Business groups have opposed the act because it would allow employees to unionize by signing cards instead of holding secret ballot elections.

Democratic lawmakers are working on a compromise version of the bill that may remove the “card check” provision. Lincoln, whom Republicans plan to target during next year’s election, spoke at the annual meeting of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas.

“I think the compromise needs to be made between business and workers, not senators,” she said. “I hope that will be the opportunity down the line, that businesses and workers come together to solve those problems and that it’s really focused on something that’s going to be more productive for everybody.”

Lincoln, seeking a third term next year, announced in April that she would not support the Employee Free Choice Act because she said it was too divisive. Republicans consider her seat their top race in the state next year and have touted her past support of similar legislation.

Seven Republicans have announced they’re seeking the GOP nomination for her U.S. Senate seat, and state Senate President Bob Johnson has said he may challenge Lincoln in the Democratic primary.

In 2004, Lincoln earned the rare distinction of being backed by both the Arkansas chapter of the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The state Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, which lobby and advocate on behalf of state business interests, have spoken against the union-organizing legislation. During a question-and-answer session following her speech Monday, one questioner asked the audience to applaud Lincoln for opposing the bill.

“We see this as a flawed piece of legislation,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO of the state Chamber and Associated Industries of Arkansas. The two groups are separate, but share a headquarters and staff. “We see this as a bill that is a solution looking for a problem. We think the current process works well and see no reason to change it.”

The business group’s annual meeting also featured speeches by Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Ross and Vic Snyder and Gov. Mike Beebe.

Lincoln said her stance on the union-organizing bill and her support of an estate tax exemption has put her at odds with Democratic leaders in the Senate.

“I spend a good amount of time in the time-out chair in my caucus,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, last week voted for a proposal that would overhaul the nation’s health care system. Lincoln said she believes the bill is still a work in progress, but said she doesn’t think it will move toward a government-run health insurance system.

“We tried to create an environment, not a government-run system, but for government to create an environment where private industry can be successful,” Lincoln said.

Posted by Admin on 10/20 at 07:32 AM