Will Becker Appointment Motivate Labor?

Posted on April 1, 2010 by

The labor movement got a boost last week with a couple of pro-union presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Senate republicans had been blocking Obama’s picks to fill the seats, focusing special attention on union lawyer Craig Becker, who was vigorously opposed by business groups and even earned special status when he evoked the c – word [COMMUNIST!] from Rush Limbaugh himself.

An independent federal agency which oversees union certification elections and has limited authority to protect workers during organizing drives, the NLRB tends to tip marginally toward labor during democratic administrations.

The republicans used Becker to kick up their fierce opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act [EFCA], claiming that the union lawyer would have the power and the gall to impose “card check” (which makes it harder for employers to thwart unionization) through administrative fiat.

Obama’s one year recess appointment of Becker (and another union lawyer Mark Pearce) gives the democrats a full working majority on the board but will not raise EFCA from the grave.

Republicans clearly understand – and have for generations – the importance of a diminishing labor movement to their future success.  They generally do best in states with low rates of unionization.  And the era when a few moderate republicans received union support is just about over.

Democrats have a more ambiguous relationship to labor.  They have the tricky job of protecting the interest of capitalist elites while trying to placate unions.  Keep in mind that the anti-EFCA filibuster campaign sealed the deal only when it was joined by some key senate democrats.

So the dems stand around and watch as private sector unionism in the U.S. shrinks (just one in fourteen nongovernment workers is now represented).  While there are pockets of so-called union density in transportation, entertainment and construction, for example, the American economy continues its nonunion trend.

With Becker, the unions get  a breather with a labor-leaning NLRB.  The white house, which needed to  deliver something to its working-class constituency, gets its props and motivates unions for the 2010 midterm elections.

That’s when labor’s financial resources and on-the-ground capabilities could make the difference for swing district democrats, including those who generally couldn’t care less about the future of  the labor movement.

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  1. [...] a pro-union majority for the first time in a decade.  Last April, former SEIU in-house council Craig Becker, got his seat through a one-year “recess appointment” from Obama in the face of a senate [...]

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