Obama’s Labor Board Boosts Unions

Posted on May 28, 2011 by

Time is running out for the American labor movement. 

And no-one believes that a government agency alone can reverse decades of union decline.  

Certainly, the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] – which governs organizing and unfair labor practices – cannot restore labor’s standing. 

Or change the public perception that the AFL-CIO and its affiliates are liberal advocates rather than leaders of a mass movement for worker protection and power. 

(Or worse, special interest groups for privileged workers). 

And even though unions will not become extinct (specific unionized industries and regions will likely survive and – in some cases – thrive), the number and overall percent of unionized American workers could continue to drop. 

Maybe that’s why union leaders and activists have been relatively indifferent to some important changes at the NLRB under Obama. 

His picks for the board – including three members and its chair – have created 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 republican filibuster threat. 

Though it hasn’t been Becker stirring things up at the board lately, but a career NLRB attorney who was named Acting General Counsel. 

Lafe Solomon has become the latest republican target, particularly for a recent decision to issue a complaint against Boeing.    The company is accused of shifting production on a commercial aircraft from a unionized facility in Washington State to a nonunion plant in Charlestown, South Carolina.  The crux of the matter (which could generate years of litigation) is that Boeing was retaliating against the union for strikes at the Seattle factory. 

Meanwhile important cases involving union rights are working their way up the chain for adjudication by the full board.  Recent efforts by house republicans to defund the NLRB anticipate decisions favorable to the labor movement

Expect more fireworks soon with Solomon’s nomination to serve a full four-year term and Becker’s temporary appointment expiring in December, 2011. 

Disappointment with President Obama is widespread in union circles and a few good NLRB picks won’t change that. 

My guess, though, is that the white house and the Obama re-election committee cheer-on republicans when they attack the board as pro-union.  It’s a cheap way for the president to win at least some points with labor. 

And it’s no small matter that this NLRB is giving unions some relief from the enormous pressures they face everyday and one less thing to worry about.

Comments (2)


  1. Greg says:

    I am by and large an optomistic union member but I am fully preparing myself for President Obama to come with his hand out for funds from labor again. And BIG labor will, as it always does come through and drop millions into his war chest. Only to have him screw labor by turning his back on those NLRB appointments. This snub will be accepted by labor since it was needed to help shore up and most likely save his re-election campaign. When will we ever learn? I am taking bets on never.

  2. Greg II says:

    I think it’s worth actually understanding and appreciating the political landscape. It’s not about what happens in a given cycle. What we need to do is come up with a long term plan that will allow us to create the kind of world we want. That’s what the Republicans did. They were n the wilderness long enough to be willing to take even more time to build to what they wanted. They did it so incrementally that not only did we let it happen, we sometimes assisted. So to blame the Democrats or even the President for what didn’t happen in this last two years is simply short sighted. And to try to punish the Democrats for it is even more shortsighted. What are you going to do give your money and your support to the Republicans? Sit it out? Support some third party candidate? All those choices are simply handing over the reins to those who hate the working class. What we need to do is develop a plan and as citizens we need to realize that just voting is not enough. We need to participate. We need to come up with plans. We need to hold feet to the fire. We can’t afford to quit or turncoat. Either of those is simply committing suicide by giving the other guy the weapon to slay you.

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