Any consumer of politics and policy debates in the nation’s capital will recall the countless times President Obama has called on those serving in Congress to set aside pettiness and partisanship and take steps to deliver real reforms benefitting the American people. Irrespective of one’s party affiliation, this is a message that resonates. It appeals to our better angels asking us to act in the best interests of our fellow citizens.
Yet, at the same time as the president and his administration make appeals for leadership and good governance, his actions demonstrate the very character traits he condemns: smallness and bias. Take, for instance, what has transpired in recent days concerning the National Labor Relations Board, a so-called independent federal agency whose members are nominated by the president.
First, in January 2012, the president made recess appointments to the NLRB when Congress was not actually in recess. On Jan. 25, the recess appointments of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, because the Senate was not in recess but convening periodic pro-forma sessions. This means the board did not have a quorum to act, hundreds of decisions that it has issued are invalid, and the decisions it has continued to issue since the court ruled will be nullified on appeal.
On Feb. 13, Mr. Obama announced he would be renominating Mr. Griffin and Ms. Block to the board.
Mr. Griffin previously was the general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers. As such, he was a leading official at a union that the media has characterized as “tainted by mob ties” with a “history of corruption.” He is also a defendant in an extortion and racketeering case where he is mentioned in the portion of the suit dealing with a cover-up.
By any fair estimate, the NLRB, which is funded with taxpayer dollars, has operated as a vehicle for Big Labor to achieve bureaucratic victories it could not otherwise see enacted in the legislature. In this discussion, facts matter and union bosses have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the current administration and its allies, and it has demanded a return that has manifested itself in an activist, hyperpartisan government agency.
Once Mr. Obama was elected, Gerald McEntee, former president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told The Washington Times that Big Labor expected the Employee Free (aka “Forced”) Choice Act as “‘payback’ for the labor movement’s massive campaign effort for Mr. Obama and the Democrats.”
The employee act was legislation that virtually eliminated the secret ballot and empowered government bureaucrats, with no business experience whatsoever, to set the terms and conditions of employment for individual businesses. It was soundly defeated by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the House and never even came for a vote in the Senate, where Mr. Obama enjoyed a filibusterproof majority.
Mr. Obama’s benefactors in organized labor did not read the writing on the wall. Instead, they doubled down. It was Stewart Acuff of the AFL-CIO who wrote in The Huffington Post, “We are very close to the 60 votes we need. [If] we aren’t able to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, we will work with President Obama and Vice President Biden and their appointees to the National Labor Relations Board to change the rules governing forming a union through administrative action.”
What has transpired since then?
Mr. Obama’s board has enacted an “ambush” election rule that rushes the collective bargaining process so greatly that employees cannot carefully weigh arguments from both sides and make a decision on unionization absent pressure, while limiting the ability of employers to provide information to their own workers. They have issued a decision that authorizes the formation of small bargaining units of employees called “micro-unions” within one workplace in an effort to allow labor bosses to gain a foothold into businesses even when a majority of workers don’t want to be represented by a union.
Time and again, the Obama labor board has set aside precedent and tradition to reward Big Labor at the expense of America’s employees and employers. The NLRB is currently made up of three Democratic appointees and only one who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. For 60 years, the board would not issue a major decision without the participation of a member of the minority party, but the Obama board eliminated this practice. The unconstitutional appointments of Mr. Griffin and Ms. Block to the NLRB should be the last straw. Congress must insist that our president live by his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution — not the special interests of his union backers.
Fred Wszolek is a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).