New Republic to Obama: Mollify Unions with Becker Appointment

John B. Judis, a senior editor with The New Republic, pressures President Obama to make a recess appointment of SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, casting the argument in political terms as “Obama’s Hinge Moment.” First published in the magazine, Judis’ piece was reposted at NPR’s site today.

Judis’ argument is political, as he waves away business’ objections to Becker’s nomination, claiming “Becker dealt satisfactorily with the principal charge against him — that he would use the NLRB to administratively enact the Employee Free Choice Act.” Maybe, if you’re satisfied by “No, I wouldn’t,” as sufficient, his earlier writings to the contrary.


At the end of this month, Obama will have a chance to prove these critics wrong. It would certainly be the politically smart thing to do. Labor remains essential to the Democratic coalition, and, given that Obama cannot offer unions what they really want–the Employee Free Choice Act–he can at least mollify them with this. More than a shrewd political move, however, filling the vacancies on the NLRB is the right thing to do. It is a small agency but an important one. And, as long as it remains crippled, one of the core philosophical commitments of the Democratic Party–the idea that workers ought to have some counterweight to the overwhelming power of big business–goes unfulfilled.

Other than politics, there’s nothing stopping Senate confirmation of the other two nominees, Buffalo labor lawyer Mark Pearce and former Senate staffer Brian Hayes. President Obama could also easily nominate another Democrat to fill the swing position on the NLRB.

So the issue here isn’t the effective operation of the National Labor Relations Board, it’s the “mollifying” of organized labor.

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