The Nation: Oops. Forgive Our Frankness on Becker, NLRB

By January 30, 2010Labor Unions

We’ve previously quoted the following paragraph from The Nation, a leading left-wing periodical, on the stakes for employers involved in the nomination of SEIU counsel Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, that is, the possibility of administrative enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s the conclusion from a Jan. 20 article, “Obama’s Pro-Union Nominations to Labor Relations Board Stalled“:

The battle over nominations to the NLRB, even more than EFCA, may be what really determines the extent of labor’s gains under Obama. Should Obama persevere and see his nominations confirmed, there is reason to believe that much of what organized labor hopes to accomplish via EFCA will be realized through the rule-making power of the NLRB. But White House loyalty to these nominees may never gain sufficient spine unless labor and its progressive allies mobilize to push Congress to finish the confirmation process. Without mobilization, this episode may end up being yet another example of Obama’s promises not being realized and hopes going unfulfilled.

That quite clear: The NLRB is the mechanism to achieve what organized labor cannot achieve through legislation.

But now The Nation has added a “clarification” to the column, its importance emphasized by its placement at the top of the piece.

Clarification: NLRB nominee Craig Becker has written that in National Labor Relations Board proceedings related to unionizing, where a union or workers file for a “Board election”in order to form or dissolve a union, there is nothing in the National Labor Relations Act which compels the NLRB’s current policy, which is to permit the employer to be an active participant either favoring, opposing or even obstructing such an election. However, The Nation wishes to make it clear that Becker has never advocated that employers be prevented from participating in other NLRB proceedings, such as those involving alleged unfair labor practices, nor that employers be forbidden from exercising their “free speech” right to oppose union drives. Becker has made it clear that employers should retain the right to protect their legitimate interests before the NLRB.

In other words, sorry we were so upfront about the political consequences of this nomination.

We can imagine how this “clarification” came to be: Someone in the White House or perhaps a top official with Big Labor called The Nation to complain, saying, “You’ve messed us up. You know that conclusion’s going to be used to characterize Becker as labor’s man on the NLRB, the man who can accomplish what we couldn’t get done in the Senate — enact card check. You’ve got to drop that paragraph.” Being honest journalists, the reporters couldn’t put the paragraph down the memory hole, but being good progressives, they wanted to keep Becker’s hopes alive. Hence the “clarification” compromise.

That’s our speculation, at least.

For our earlier coverage of the nomination, go here.

UPDATE (Sunday, 10:30 a.m.): Most dreaded phone call at The Nation, “Yo, Corn! Nichols! Guy from the AFL-CIO on line two.”

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