In Labor’s Loop

Washington Post columnist Al Kamen catches up with week-old news today in his “In the Loop” column, “After failed labor board nomination, unions not too happy with Obama.” It’s the usual melange of snark and inaccuracy applied to the Senate’s Feb. 9 cloture vote that blocked the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.

First, Kamen writes, “[Senate] Democrats weren’t able to muster the 60 votes needed to get a vote on the nomination of labor lawyer Craig Becker to be chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.” Except Becker wasn’t nominated to be chairman. More Kamen:

Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) also opposed the nomination, apparently after having discovered that Becker, associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union, was actually a pro-union lawyer. Truly shocking. Who knew?

Yeah, yeah. Here’s the actual reason Sen. Lincoln voted against cloture, which failed 52-33. In her own words:

I believe there should be a balance between the rights of employers and employees in the workplace regarding labor laws and regulations that govern collective bargaining. After reviewing Mr. Becker’s record, I became concerned that his approach to these important issues could undermine the existing rules on union elections on matters that in my view should be addressed through the regular legislative process.

Kamen then repeats organized labor’s line:

The labor folks take Obama’s statement to mean that there’ll be no recess appointment this round — meaning nothing at least until the next Senate recess, in late March — and thus the five-member NLRB, unable to function for more than a year with only two members, will continue to be crippled.

It would surely be better to have a five-member NLRB than the current two-member board, but “crippled” belies the reality that the two-member board has made hundreds of decisions. Several appellate courts have upheld the validity of that quorum, while one — the D.C. Circuit — ruled that a two-member board could not make valid rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue. (Jackson-Lewis summary)

In any case, Becker’s confirmation is not required to remove any dispute over a functioning quorum at the NLRB. Two nominees remain pending: Buffalo labor lawyer Mark Pearce, a Democrat, and Brian Hayes, a Republican Senate staffer. If the Senate is intent on healing the supposedly crippled NLRB, it need only confirm Pearce and Hayes.

Other posts on Becker nomination.

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