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NLRB nominee: “I pretty firmly believe in free enterprise”

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

Harry Johnson, a Los Angeles-based lawyer nominated by President Obama to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, granted a brief phone interview to the Washington Examiner today in which he said he is a free market Republican. He nevertheless promised to take an impartial approach to the NLRB’s work.

“I am extremely honored and thrilled to be nominated for this. I intend to serve the American people, if confirmed, and, at the end of day apply the (National Labor Relations) Act in such a way that we recognize that it is part of a free enterprise system,” Johnson said.

A native of Roanoke, Virginia, the 44 year-old Johnson has represented “exclusively management” in all manner of labor-related disputes in his legal career. He declined to get into details of how he was approached to serve on the NLRB, though he indicated that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was consulted.

“A lot of it involves some confidential internal workings, essentially, of the Senate Minority Leader’s office and I don’t want to get into that,” Johnson said. (Traditionally, the White House picks three of the NLRB’s five members, while the the Senate opposition leader gets to pick two.)

Asked about his his view of labor law, he replied: “Obviously, having represented businesses for many years, I know all of the challenges they face. It is important to have a stable body of law on workforce relations.”

He added: “Beyond that though, it is the same as if you were interviewing somebody who was nominated to be a judge: I cannot have any pre-conceived notions about any particular cases that come before me.”

Asked to define himself ideologically, Johnson said: “That would be a little bit hard to do. I mean, I pretty firmly believe in free enterprise and that we have a free enterprise system and that the National Labor Relations Act is an important part of regulating that system.”

He followed that with: “I’m not a good person to put a barometer up to to say I am this or that kind of Republican.” He did say that he shared may of the dissents on official NLRB rulings made by its Republican minority.

Where does he stand on, say, card check? Well,  as a private practice attorney, he “didn’t think (it) was a great idea” but added: “I’m not going to be a legislator.”

Similarly asked about the NLRB’s controversial complaint against Boeing, he declined to say what he would have done, noting he wasn’t privy to the  NLRB’s work on the case. “I would be speaking way out of school,” Johnson said. (The complaint was withdrawn by the NLRB after the company reached a deal with the union.)

While he did work a DC-based firm for a few years, Johnson is a newcomer government work. “I’m never served in the federal government in any position. I’ve never served as staff to a member of congress or any judge.”

 

 

 

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner