National Labor Relations Board Nominee Blocked in the Senate

In snowy Washington, two Democrats joined all Republicans to block the nomination of Craig Becker to sit on the National Labor Relations Board from moving forward with a vote tally of 52-33.

With 15 Senators missing, the vote tally fell eight votes short of the 60 necessary to pass.

In a statement, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said “Mr. Becker’s previous statements strongly indicate that he would take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB, and that he would pursue a personal agenda there, rather than that of the Administration.”

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tough re-election campaign in her conservative state, was the other Democrat to oppose Becker.

President Obama indicated Tuesday he would move to recess blocked appointees. He did not mention Craig specifically.

Perhaps adding more pressure to lawmakers, just hours before the Senate was set to vote on Becker’s nomination, the US Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Senators urging their opposition.

The letter included a strong message to Senators. The Chamber may count this vote on their annual scorecard which ranks members friendly to their pro-business causes.

The letter said Becker would “restrictively interpret employers’ free speech rights” to oppose organizing. The letter also says Becker would use the National Labor Relations Board to “expand the use of intermittent strikes…that disrupt the right of employers to maintain operations during labor disputes.”

In other words, opponents fear Becker will steer the National Labor Relations Board to favor unions.

NJP’s Wes Rackley wrote in a previous article:

“Craig Becker…. has answered hundreds of questions from senators on both sides. He is a highly respected labor law practitioner and scholar with an impressive 27-year record of advocating for low-wage workers.

Becker has wide support from the legal community, including a letter signed by 66 law professors from our top law schools. Last October, Becker received bipartisan support in a Senate committee vote, but now the Party of No has decided to obstruct his nomination.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is one of the opposed. McCain pointed out that Becker is currently counsel to the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. He insisted that Becker recuse himself from SEIU-related matters for the duration of his tenure. Becker agreed to a two year recusal period.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) says Craig Becker is qualified for the job.

“Are we going to say that anyone who has come to the National Labor Relations Board from the unions is disqualified? That’s like saying that someone who comes from business is disqualified. I don’t support that,” Durbin said.

The NLRB was created in 1935 to foster collective bargaining and protect workers from abusive labor practices. The board is supposed to be a mediator for labor disputes.

Because of it’s partisan nature, the party that’s in power receives three seats to the minority party’s two seats.

William Gould, Professor of Labor Law at Stanford University, was Chair of the NLRB during the Clinton administration. He said union opponents have long used the board to protect employers.

“With all its imperfections, it is better for workers than nothing, and Republicans recognize this and have no incentive to make the agency go forward. Contrarily, the Democrats have every inventive to make the agency go forward,” Gould said.

Gould says the board has often failed to protect workers because of what he calls, the “lethargy” of the board. In other words: inaction. He says workplace complaints can take years before receiving a decision.

“The board has been harmed by political appointees who won‘t make decisions,” Gould said.

Opponents say that Becker will use his authority on the board to implement aspects of the Employee Free Choice Act.  EFCA is a proposal stalled in Congress that would enable workers to organize by signing a card. Supporters say EFCA uwould help to eliminate strong arm tacticsed s by employers to prevent organizing.

The board currently has only two sitting members, one Republican and one Democratic appointee. Becker is one of three nominated by President Obama to sit on the board. All three were nominated in April. Becker was the first to receive a vote. The other two are considered non-controversial.

Follow Leigh Ann Caldwell on Twitter and hear an audio version of this story on FSRN.

Editor’s Note: Please follow  The News Junkie Post on Twitter.

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