When labor lawyer Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was rejected by a bipartisan Senate vote in February, it was due to fears on both sides of the aisle that the former counsel for the AFL-CIO and SEIU would use the board’s administrative powers to implement card check.
Card check is Big Labor’s No. 1 public-policy goal because it abolishes secret ballots in workplace representation elections. Workers would then be required to publicly sign a card supporting a union or decline to do so.
The approach would be a clear invitation to union bullying of workers who oppose unionization. Union bosses hope card check will help them reverse a decades-long slump that has seen membership drop to only 7 percent of all private-sector workers. When the Senate rejected Becker, the union bosses — who spent $400 million to elect President Barack Obama — pressured the chief executive to use a recess appointment to put him on the NLRB without Senate confirmation.
Becker’s appointment expires next year, so it’s no surprise that he hurried to use the NLRB case decided Tuesday to take a major step toward making card check the law of the land. The lack of surprise doesn’t make it any less outrageous. In the decision, involving the Dana Corp., the AFL-CIO and UAW, the NLRB upheld card check as a legal organizing tool so long as the employer and union organizers enter into a “letter of agreement” in advance. Note that Becker did not recuse himself from the case despite the fact it involved one of his former clients, the UAW.
Thanks to this NLRB decision, expect to see many more occasions in which companies hoping to get a break on compensation agreements cave in to union demands for card check. The biggest losers in such deals are invariably the employees, and not just because their right to a secret ballot is lost. In 2007, the SEIU provoked public outrage when it struck such a deal with California nursing home operators. The employer got major concessions — including union help lobbying the state of California for more tax-paid child care subsidies, while the SEIU got more union dues from thousands of newly unionized workers.
As for the workers, the deal between the SEIU and the nursing homes “involved trading away workers’ free-speech rights, selling out their ability to improve working conditions, and relinquishing their capability to improve pay and benefits, in order to expand the SEIU’s … own power,” according to the San Francisco Weekly.
With the Dana decision, the NLRB thus becomes yet another illustration of Obama’s willingness to use bureaucratic edicts, this time resulting from an administrative law case, to advance something on his agenda that not even the
Democratic Congress would support.