What Accountability? No Hearings on NLRB, OSHA Nominees

By October 16, 2009Labor Unions, Regulations

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has scheduled its mark up of pending nominations for next 10 a.m. next Wednesday.

Among the nominees expected to be acted on — and usually, that means approved — are Craig Becker, Mark Pearce and Brian Hayes to be members of the National Labor Relations Board, and David Michaels to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational, Safety and Health, i.e., the head of OSHA.

None of these nominees has had or is scheduled to have a Senate confirmation hearing at which they could explain their views of the job and the proper role of the government vis a vis the private sector.

Becker’s nomination has provoked consternation in the business community. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal editorialized on him as “Acorn’s Ally at the NLRB,” noting the close ties between the union where he has been associate general counsel, the SEIU, and the radical political activist group, ACORN. More to the point, his views of the NLRB’s proper role are outside the mainstream:

President Obama nominated Mr. Becker in April to the five-member NLRB, which has the critical job of supervising union elections, investigating labor practices, and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, Mr. Becker argued for rewriting current union-election rules in favor of labor. And he suggested the NLRB could do this by regulatory fiat, without a vote of Congress.

Just yesterday the NAM and 27 other trade associations sent a letter to the committee’s leadership asking for a hearing on Becker.

As for the OSHA post, earlier this month a group of industry, farm (correction: ag processing) and retail trade associations also sent a letter to the committee request confirmation hearings on Michaels. The letter stated:

Michaels has advocated for more government regulation, even when the available science
and data to support such regulations is inadequate or unsettled. He has also attacked the landmark, unanimous Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, which stands for the proposition that scientific evidence in litigation must meet certain standards to be admitted. Michaels has also been the beneficiary of product liability actions which have been shown to be without merit. Finally, nominees for the OSHA Assistant Secretary have traditionally been subject to a hearing before their confirmations moved forward. We see no reason why Professor Michaels should be an exception. Accordingly, as detailed below, we believe his views warrant a hearing and thorough examination before his nomination can proceed.

The NAM had also sent its own letter on the Michaels’ nomination. And, as noted above, President George W. Bush’s OSHA nominee went through a full confirmation hearing in January 2006 so business isn’t asking for anything unusual.

In both cases — Becker and Michael — we’re surprised that the committee did not believe nominees to these important positions should be asked to explain their beliefs and governing philosophies in a public forum. The two men will soon wield great power over the workplace world, and a confirmation hearing puts them on the record, letting the public better judge their actions once in office.

The HELP Committee is busy, we know, but not so busy that it should eschew its responsibilities of advice and consent. The White House could play a constructive role here, demonstrating its adherence to high standards of transparency and accountability if it asked the HELP Committee to take another week and conduct the confirmation hearings.

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