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NLRB Fight Begins Anew (Read More…)

By Kris Maher
March 29, 2010,

No sooner did President Barack Obama exercise his recess-appointment powers to put labor lawyer Craig Becker into a seat at the National Labor Relations Board than a group that has challenged unions said it will ask Becker to recuse himself from 12 pending cases before the board.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said Becker, who has served as counsel for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, should not hear cases in which the foundation is providing legal aid to workers, because Becker directly opposed the group while serving as counsel for the SEIU and because his prior writings demonstrate a bias against the group.

“We just don’t think he’s going to be able to impartially adjudicate cases involving the Foundation’s attorneys,” said Nick Cote, a spokesman for the group. He cited several writings, including a 2005 article that Becker co-wrote in the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law in which the foundation is referred to as “funded by the most anti-union fringe of the employer community.”

Becker’s nomination was strongly opposed by business groups, and had been held up in the Senate. Obama appointed him over the weekend during the congressional recess, thus avoiding Senate confirmation. Another union-favored lawyer, Mark Pearce, was also appointed to the board, which now has three Democratic members and one Republican member. One Republican seat on the five-member board remains vacant.

Other groups could follow with their own recusal efforts against Becker. A labor policy official from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also opposed Becker’s appointment, said the group would evaluate whether to ask Becker to recuse himself “on a case by case basis.”

An NLRB spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment on what type of cases Becker could be required to recuse himself from.

Several of the 12 cases cited by the National Right to Work group involve the card-check method of union organizing. Two cases involve a 2007 precedent-setting labor board decision in a case known as Dana Corp. In that decision, the board ruled that workers can seek an election to decertify a union within 45 days of an employer recognizing a union via card check.

Earlier this month, AFL-CIO officials said overturning the Dana decision is a priority. The Dana ruling weakens the card-check method, which currently requires approval by an employer. Unions prefer the card check method, which requires workers to sign cards rather than vote in secret ballot elections.

Posted by Admin on 03/29 at 03:38 PM

Recess Raises Specter of Obama Labor Move to Business Groups (Read More…)

By Holly Rosenkrantz

March 26 (Bloomberg)—U.S. business groups and Republican lawmakers are stepping up efforts to ward off a labor appointment by President Barack Obama that might trigger a surge in union organizing efforts.

Obama may appoint union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board after Congress leaves this week for a scheduled Easter recess, a step that would circumvent the need for Senate confirmation. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. union organization, in a speech March 3 that it “will be very pleased” by what Obama was planning.

Becker would be the second Democrat and third member of the five-seat board, providing a quorum to clear a backlog of more than 210 cases. Among them are disputes with casino owner MGM Mirage and auto parts maker Dana Holding Corp. The Democratic majority may adopt policies helping unions to recruit while limiting employers, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

“You will see a radical overhaul of the labor law system,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy at the Washington-based industry group. “You could see significant limits on employers’ ability to communicate.”

Organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote Obama a letter on March 23 urging him not to appoint Becker, a lawyer representing the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, while Congress is away.

All 41 Republican senators made the same plea yesterday in a letter to Obama. Presidents have executive powers to bypass the Senate and make appointments during recesses, for limited terms.


The Obama administration had “nothing to announce” on an appointment, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said yesterday.

Three Vacancies

The National Labor Relations Board, created in 1935 to remedy unfair labor practices and certify union elections, has had three vacancies since 2008. With one Democrat and one Republican, it has been unable to act on divisive issues such as the scope of recruiting efforts after U.S. union membership fell to a record low 7.2 percent of private-sector employers in 2009.

“There is tremendous pressure out there to organize,” said Gary Chaison, a labor law professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “With a labor-friendly board, strictly enforcing restrictions on employer intimidation and making union elections faster and cheaper, all that pressure to organize would be released.”

Labor unions spent a record $450 million to help elect Democrats to the White House and Congress in 2008. After failing to win their top legislative priority, the so-called card-check bill making it easier to organize, the labor movement is pushing to get Becker on the board.

Recess Appointments

Becker failed to win Senate confirmation to a five-year term last month after two Democrats joined Republicans to block his nomination. Obama could now appoint Becker to serve through 2011, or until the end of the next session of Congress.

Business groups say a board led by Democrats may push rule changes creating what the manufacturers’ group calls “snap elections,” reducing the time between when organizers file to hold an employee election and the vote. Employers would have less time to counter a unionizing effort.

The Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business group, said it fears a pro-labor board would change rules to allow “mini-unions.” A pending petition would require employers to bargain on contracts with smaller groups of employees, even if the union doesn’t represent a majority of a company’s workers.

“It would create complete chaos in the workplace as you had many different non-majority bargaining units popping up all over the place,” said Glenn Spencer, who deals with labor issues at the Washington-based Chamber.

Union Recognition

The board has been unable to resolve a case involving Dana, which may set a precedent when companies agree to recognize a union without holding an election. Dana seeks to clarify what can be discussed before a union is recognized. Business groups say the board may strip employers of rights to limit the scope of union organizing.

The labor board is considering about a dozen cases involving secondary targets, in which unions seeking to organize at one company display banners at the firm’s suppliers or customers. Business groups say such actions may border on coercion.

A case involving MGM Mirage’s New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas may have a ripple effect on hotels, shopping centers and casinos. The board is considering whether workers can pass out union literature at the entrance to a workplace that includes businesses not involved in the organizing effort.

Chaison said a pro-union labor board could rule in a way that forces companies to be “very careful about what they say regarding unionization, outcome of strikes, and plant relocations during organizing drives.”

‘Layoffs, Low Pay’

“At all times, they would be looking over their shoulder, trying to avoid situations like layoffs or low pay increases or pay cuts that might stir worker sentiments toward union representation,” he said.

Wilma Liebman, a labor board member designated by Obama to be its chairman, and Peter C. Schaumber, the board chairman under President George W. Bush, have decided 593 cases where there wasn’t disagreement. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 23 on whether decisions of a two-member board are legal

Posted by Admin on 03/26 at 09:15 AM