The top priority for the labor movement during the Obama administration has been to enact "card check" legislation, which would deny workers a secret ballot on unionization, and thus enable labor to rapidly add members through intimidation. While the most obvious way to make this law would be through the legislative process, the Orwellian named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has been stalled in the Senate. However, Democrats can also enact "card check" through the regulatory process, which is one reason why President Obama appointed union lawyer Craig Becker to be the tie-breaking vote on the National Labor Relations Board.
The Becker nomination has been held up by Republicans thus far, but he testified yesterday before the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Comittee, which is expected to approve his nomination tomorrow. At that point, Becker will need to be approved by sixty votes in the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid's office has said that the Majority Leader is "committed to doing what is necessary to bring the nomination to the floor as soon as possible and get his nomination confirmed."
The catch is that, right now, even though Scott Brown's election has been certified by the Massachusetts Secretary of State and is merely awaiting Gov. Deval Patrick's signature tomorrow morning, Brown isn't scheduled to be sworn-in until next Thursday, potentially giving Reid a week to ram through the Becker nomination. The Boston Globe reports that Brown's office is now seeking to be seated immediately, which would allow him to be in place to help block it.
In a recent magazine piece, I explained why Becker's nomination was so worrisome:
Currently, there are only two members on the five-member NRLB -- one is a Republican and the other a Democrat. To tilt the balance of the board, Obama tapped two union lawyers (Craig Becker and Mark Pearce). He also appointed a Republican Senate staffer, Brian E. Hayes, in hopes it would dissuade Republican senators from blocking the other two.
Becker, a longtime labor activist, is the associate general counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The left-wing magazine In These Times wrote that he "helped lay the intellectual foundation for the Employee Free Choice Act." More relevantly, he wrote a law review article arguing that the major aims of EFCA could be achieved through rulings by the regulatory body to which Obama has appointed him.
"This is somebody who has announced ahead of time that he thinks he can do much of the left's agenda through the regulatory process," Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in an interview with TAS. "It's one thing for him to say he intends to do something, but when you look at it, where are the guardrails? Who says he can't? Who slaps him down?"
Norquist said that if Becker were confirmed, all that would need to happen would be for somebody to file a complaint arguing that the unionization process at a particular business was unfair, and the union-friendly board could decide in the person's favor and set rules for unionization and collective bargaining along the lines of what is prescribed by EFCA.
UPDATE: The Hill is now reporting that Brown will in fact be seated tomorrow.