National Labor Relations Board member Craig Becker recused himself from a decision earlier this week that advanced organized labor’s top public policy goal, Card Check, but worries continue to grow in at least a dozen other cases before the board in which he participated despite apparent conflicts of interest for the former labor lawyer.
In this week’s case, the NLRB approved a deal in which the Dana Corporation agreed to a union demand that its workplace before organized using Card Check in return for an agreement that favored management on compensation and other issues. Becker recused himself from the case because he had written a brief supporting labor prior to joining the board.
Card Check is a bullying tool used by unions that eliminates the secret ballot for workers in workplace representation elections. Workers must publicly declare their position by either signing a pledge card supporting unionization or declaring their opposition. Critics contend Card Check thus exposes workers to threats and actual physical intimidation by union organizers.
Becker refused to discuss the case with the Examiner or his rationale for recusals, as did a board spokesman.
The conflict of interest fears result from Becker’s long career representing clients like the AFL-CIO and SEIU.
After his original nomination for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was rejected in a bipartisan Senate vote, President Obama gave Becker a temporary recess appointment that allows him to serve on the board through 2011. Recess appointees do not require Senate confirmation.
Since joining the NLRB, the National Right to Work (NRTW) Foundation has filed 13 motions noting Becker's conflict of interest in cases before the NLRB.Since joining the NLRB, the National Right to Work (NRTW) Foundation has filed 13 motions noting Becker's conflict of interest in cases before the NLRB.
The cases from which Becker did not recuse himself involve significant issues and his former clients, including a case involving the SEIU, for which he did extensive legal work for in the past.
When I asked the NLRB about the issue earlier this year, the board’s spokesman refused to comment except to pass along a lengthy document Becker wrote in response to the recusal motions. [Becker's comments on the recusal motions begin on page five.]
In that document, Becker claimed he would have no conflicts of interest in cases involving local chapters of unions whose national organizations he had represented because the former are “distinct legal entities” from the latter.
In fact, SEIU's constitution says the national union has “jurisdiction over its affiliated bodies and all Local Unions.”
Becker also appears to be violating the Obama administration ethics pledge he signed in which he promised: “I will not for a period of two years from the date of my appointment participate in any matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”
Becker also refuses to hold himself to the same level of objectivity required of his fellow NLRB members, according to the foundation.
“[Becker] refuses to adopt the more stringent federal judge standard for recusal used by current NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman in cases concerning affiliates of the Teamster union, her former employer before being installed on the Board by President Bill Clinton,” the foundation said in a filing before the board.
Becker also has a long history of public criticism of NRTW, which often works on cases before the NLRB, further compromising his objectivity.
The NLRB will soon rule on another important case involving Card Check, the Lamons Gasket case, which is confusingly enough, also referred to as “the Dana decision.”
Lamons Gasket could reverse a 2007 NLRB decision also involving the Dana Corp., the AFL-CIO and UAW in which it said employees could invalidate a union that was organized through Card Check by holding a secret ballot election on the matter within 45 days of the new union’s certification.
Becker has not recused himself from this case, even though it's related to the same parties and issue that caused him to recuse himself from the original Dana decision. When the NLRB voted in August in favor of revisiting the Dana case from 2007, Becker did not recuse himself. In fact, the NLRB vote was 3-2, effectively making Becker the deciding vote in decision to revisit the case.
The Right to Work group also argues that Becker denies having pre-judged attempts to overturn the 2007 Dana decision despite a long career of advocating an extreme version of forced unionism that considers secret ballot elections “profoundly undemocratic” and despite having authored an amicus brief in that case opposing granting employees the opportunity to petition for decertification of unions recognized by card check.
Becker's brief argued the case “there is no essential difference between Card Check and secret ballots” and called the 2007 decision 'bad labor-relations policy,” according to the Wall Street Journal.