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EDITORIAL: Reckless appointment
Right-to-work laws help prevent union corruption
President Obama is not backing down from his unlawful installation of officials at the National Labor Relations Board. Despite being told by a federal appellate court that it was unconstitutional to make a recess appointment when the Senate was still in session, the administration is standing by purported appointee Richard Griffin. Now Mr. Griffin finds himself in another legal jam.
A racketeering lawsuit filed in October alleges that while Mr. Griffin served as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) he helped cover up an embezzlement scheme at Local 501 in Los Angeles. The complaint filed by 10 union members accused the local’s apprenticeship training director of spending their dues on personal expenses, including a mistress. When managers opened an investigation into the claimed misdeeds, the suit alleges, Mr. Griffin demanded the investigators’ resignations if they wouldn’t drop the case. Mr. Griffin’s lawyer rejected the suit’s assertions as “frivolous.”
Mr. Griffin is one of two of the administration’s appointees to be selected directly from a labor union. Bypassing the Senate confirmation process allowed him to take office without a thorough vetting. The folly of doing so is becoming clear.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch sent a letter to Mr. Griffin in July asking him to reply to reports of officials at his union being arrested on corruption charges. “Some of the more noteworthy cases involved members of prominent organized crime families using their influence with IUOE locals to commit acts of fraud and extortion,” wrote the Utah Republican.
Such shady dealings are the natural consequence of a system that, in many states, forces people who just want to make a living to pay dues to Big Labor bosses against their will. If members are repulsed by scandals or other mischief they see with their own eyes, they can’t protest by withholding dues or dropping out of the union. Right-to-work states, on the other hand, create a strong incentive for union leaders to run a tight ship, because disapproving members can leave. Anecdotal evidence suggests union corruption is less prevalent in right-to-work states.
“When you enlarge government by granting monopoly privileges to unions, you enlarge the opportunities for corruption,” said Carl Horowitz of the National Legal and Policy Center, which monitors union corruption. There’s less accountability because union leaders “know that workers don’t have that power of exit,” he told The Washington Times.
Mr. Griffin certainly knew Local 501 members were stuck because California is not a right-to-work state. A proper Senate confirmation hearing process could have brought these problems to light, sparing the Obama administration the need of defending a choice that looks increasingly questionable. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has given the White House a face-saving way out.
They don’t need to embarrass Mr. Griffin by dumping him over allegations of his misconduct. Mr. Obama can ask him to step down by agreeing with the court that the appointment was invalid from the start.
The Washington Times
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