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Latest News - January 2011

January 28, 2011
Pick for Labor Board Opposed by Business
Source: The Wall Street Journal
By: Melanie Trottman

Some of the same business groups President Barack Obama is courting with his regulatory review and support for a corporate-tax overhaul said Thursday they would fight his renomination of former union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.

Mr. Obama put Mr. Becker on the NLRB in March using a recess appointment after his nomination failed to get 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led Senate filibuster in February. That appointment expires at the end of this year. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama nominated him to a term that would expire in December 2014.

Unions applauded the move Thursday, calling Mr. Becker a "highly respected and qualified" candidate who will back workers' rights. Business groups, which consider Mr. Becker too sympathetic to unions, including his former employers at the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, said their objections haven't softened.

The battle over Mr. Becker has become a proxy for the debate over the role of unions in the economy. Unions, struggling to reverse declining membership, indicated they would try to use the nomination to make the case that workers need stronger protection. Business groups said the nomination sends a signal that unions should have the upper hand in organizing drives, which could push up labor costs.

"Republicans will again have a chance to reject politics as usual and put the needs of American working families over their own political interests. Ball's in their court now," said Josh Goldstein, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO labor federation.

"In renominating Becker, President Obama has sent the message to employers across the country that his rhetoric is just that and the nation's chief executive is more concerned with paying back union bosses than turning the economy around," said Katie Gage, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute. "We will work with small-business owners to ensure the Senate once again rejects the Becker nomination."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will also fight the nomination, just as it did in 2009 and 2010. "We've now had a year to see what he [Becker] actually will do, and I think that kind of confirms some of our issues with this nominee," said Glenn Spencer, an executive director for the Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Becker, through an NLRB spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed, citing his decision not to comment on his nomination or the work of the board outside of public speaking engagements or events involving all board members.

With Mr. Becker as one of three Democratic votes controlling the NLRB, the board has reopened matters previously decided in favor of employers under prior administrations. The board's Democrats recently outvoted Republicans to take on several cases that revisit disputes over when a union's representation can be challenged. One case questions whether, after the sale of a unionized company, the new owner, a rival union or the employees may challenge the incumbent union's right to represent the workers.

The board also split in late October along partisan lines when it decided to begin reconsidering whether the United Auto Workers should be able to organize graduate students who are teachers at New York University. A ruling by the Bush-era labor board had found that graduate students weren't considered employees as defined by labor law and weren't eligible to join a union.

The NLRB's current sole Republican member, Brian Hayes, opposed the NYU decision, saying it would mean Democratic members would review the same evidence but this time rule in the union's favor. Board member Mark Pearce, a Democrat, has said the board interpreted existing labor law to make its recent decisions and was trying to ensure workers have an "unencumbered choice" to unionize.



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