President Obama sent his nominations for the three empty seats on the NLRB to the Senate on July 9, 2009. One of the three, Craig Becker, is currently the Associate General Counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Although Mr. Becker has much labor law experience, he has some extreme ideas for reforming labor law, many of which would involve stripping employers of many long-established protections.

In 1993, Mr. Becker wrote an article for the Minnesota Law Review, Democracy in the Workplace: Union Representation Elections and Federal Labor Law, 77 Minn. L. Rev. 495 (Feb. 1993), in which he claims that the current union election process is flawed and proposes  wholesale changes to fix them.

For example, Mr. Becker proposes that “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.” This would m ean an employer would lose its right to participate in hearings before the Board to resolve issues related to the election, or even to have an observer present at the election, among other things. Mr. Becker proposes eliminating the 72-year-old mandate of the Taft-Hartley Act that the Board certify unions based only on the results of an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election. Mr. Becker also proposes restricting, and in some cases eliminating, an employer’s “free speech” rights during an election campaign, although the right is spelled out in the Act.  In short, Mr. Becker would go further than even EFCA .

What is most disturbing, back in 1993, Mr. Becker, then writing as an academic, suggested that many of his drastic “reforms” could be accomplished through the Labor Board’s re-interpretation of the Act. He would sidestep legislation while kicking over the traces. Now, Mr. Becker is poised to take his seat on the Board where he could try to effectuate his ideas.  

We do not know whether the Senate will conduct hearings on Mr. Becker’s nomination before voting on his confirmation, although the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on July 24, requested the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee do exactly that. R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, said, in a letter to HELP’s chairman and ranking member, that SEIU “has a record of using questionable pressure tactics with the goal of forcing employers and workers to recognize unions without the democratic protection of secret ballot elections.” He cited SEIU’s “intense advocacy” of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act and said Becker might attempt through Board decisions to impose card-check certification and “the effective elimination of secret ballots.”

In early-August, a Republican staffer reportedly said Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), HELP’S ranking member, wants a hearing on all three NLRB nominees. However, HELP so far has not announced any plans for a hearing and has not yet scheduled a vote.

We will keep you advised as the confirmation process progresses.