When labor lawyer Craig Becker's nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was rejected by a bipartisan vote of the Senate 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. But for all the focus on Becker, it turns out that the pro-union forces at the NLRB had grown stronger than anticipated. Becker has so far refused to recuse himself in at least a dozen cases where the National Right to Work Foundation claims he has "clear bias [and] conflict of interest," but his conflict in a key decision this week was so great he did recuse himself this once -- and the union bosses won anyway.
Big Labor's No. 1 public policy goal is to abolish secret ballots in workplace representation elections. Workers would then be required to publicly sign a card supporting a union or decline to do so. That 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 their membership drop to only 7 percent of all private-sector workers. Their $400 million to elect President Obama is finally getting results with the Dana decision, by which 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.
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 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.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial should have said when it first appeared that NLRB member Craig Becker recused himself from the decision under discussion. The text has been revised to reflect the correct information.