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Latest News - October 2013

October 25, 2013
Rubber-stamping a NLRB nominee
Source: The Hill
Peter Schaumber

For the second time in a year and a half, a powerful official may be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board without the Senate scrutiny his nomination requires.

President Obama’s controversial nomination of Richard Griffin, Jr. for general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board was voted out of committee without a hearing, and the full Senate will vote on Griffin without a meaningful debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set a cloture vote limiting debate for October 28. The Senate’s Democratic leadership has shown again that it is willing to dispense with a necessary element of the democratic process to serve the interests of Big Labor.

The general counsel’s spot at the NLRB is unusually powerful. Unlike general counsels at most other federal agencies, the NLRB general counsel has independent, unreviewable prosecutorial discretion. He alone determines whether to issue a complaint alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act, and in the process he selects new issues for the Board to decide. In the wrong hands, this power can be used to spearhead a partisan pro-union agenda.

Big Labor wants Griffin at the NLRB as much as it wanted Craig Becker, who came to the Board, like Griffin, after decades of loyal service in the labor movement—Becker from the AFL-CIO, and Griffin from the International Union of Operating Engineers. Becker, who was recessed to the Board after his nomination was successfully filibustered in a lopsided Senate vote, did not disappoint Big Labor. He became the architect of some of the Obama Board’s most controversial decisions. Nor will Griffin disappoint them.

In his written response to questions before his nomination for a seat on the Board was withdrawn, Griffin told Republican Senators that if confirmed he would cease being an advocate for “one side.” Griffin wrote: “This was what I did when I was appointed to the Board in January 2012, and this is what I will continue to do if confirmed.”

Griffin’s self-perception is disassociated from reality. This makes it far less likely that, as general counsel, he will be able to balance his enthusiasm for unions against the legitimate rights and interests of employers and their employees. It is hard to stop what you don’t know you are doing.

Griffin’s track record demonstrates his partisanship. Consider the following: during his year and a half on the Board, Griffin moved in lock step with his two Democratic colleagues, each a union partisan. He voted, for example, to find a hospital’s rule that prohibits off-duty employee access except if for “hospital-related business” unlawful because it did not also permit access for union organizing activities.

Griffin further demonstrates his Big Labor bias by his unqualified support for two of the Obama Board’s most controversial actions. One has been found unlawful by a federal court; the other prevents workers from ousting an unwanted union:

-- A federal district court ruled that the Board’s “ambush election rule” was unlawfully promulgated because it was issued on the vote of only two Board members; the law requires three. The Democratic majority rammed the rule through the agency, essentially locking out their Republican colleague from deliberations. Because the Republican member did not have an adequate opportunity to consider the rule in the short time frame the majority insisted upon, he was unable to participate. In response to a written question from Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, whether Griffin “would do anything differently” when engaged in rulemaking to achieve a more successful outcome, Griffin wrote: “No.”

-- Griffin also agrees with the Obama Board’s decision that stripped workers of their right to hold a secret ballot election to challenge their employer’s voluntary recognition of a union based on a card check. His reason: although any number of recognitions has been successfully challenged by workers using a secret ballot election, the number is insufficient to warrant giving workers that mechanism to vote.

At the behest of its leadership, the Democratic majority has passed legislation it has not read; it is now being asked to vote on a controversial nominee it does not know. But openly debating the public record of a nominee to a crucial position is essential for successful democratic governance. Stifling debate to serve a special interest undermines it and replaces faith in government with cynicism against it.


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