EDITORIAL: Obama’s Big Labor payback

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Big Labor played such an essential role in delivering the White House to President Obama that the head of the influential government workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told The Washington Times after the election that the union was expecting “payback.”

Payback’s name is H. Craig Becker.

That’s who President Obama nominated for a seat overseeing federal labor laws on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Mr. Becker’s record as a top lawyer for both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is so troubling that even Democrats such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Louisiana and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska thought someone else should be found for the job. Though the Senate has consistently refused to confirm Mr. Becker, the president has no intention of abandoning Big Labor’s champion.

Mark Mix of the National Right to Work organization reports that in 2007 alone, Mr. Becker’s lawyering forced 63,000 California workers to pay union dues even after rejecting union membership. He allowed repeated “home visits” for union backers, designed to pressure workers to sign public union-organizing petitions. Unions were “formed to escape the evils of individualism and individual competition. … Their actions necessarily involve coercion,” Mr. Becker once explained.

This gets to the heart of the fears about this nomination. The administration so far has been unable to push through Congress the radical plan to force union organizing through “card check” mechanisms in which workers would be denied a secret ballot when voting on whether to unionize. The purpose, clearly, is to invite coercion and intimidation to increase the ranks of dues-paying members. Mr. Becker let slip his suggested solution to the congressional difficulty back in 1993, when he said the NLRB could impose card check, or something close to it, with “no alteration of the statutory framework.” Indeed, he openly called for “abandoning the union election.”

Most experts think the NLRB’s power would be limited to a rough approximation of card check rather than the whole, profoundly undemocratic scheme. Still, the effort shows the president is more than willing to make an end run around Congress if it pleases his union pals.

That’s why, as Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have indicated in recent weeks, the president is likely to give Mr. Becker a recess appointment that would let him serve nearly two years without Senate approval.

Worse, Mr. Becker’s appointment would not mark the end of the payback. An executive order Mr. Obama signed last year will go into effect soon, requiring federal contractors to have project labor agreements that effectively shut out the 85 percent of construction workers who are nonunionized and requiring contractors to make contributions to union pension funds. In other words, Big Labor will cash in while taxpayers are stuck with bills some 20 percent higher.

Bowing to the needs of the union bosses now will only serve to worsen America’s economic condition. Senators should make clear to the administration that they do not want this radical serving in such a key position to hand out favors to his former employers.

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