Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who is Craig Becker and why should you care?

Craig Becker is President Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board. He is also the Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest growing labor union. SEIU President Andy Stern is one of the most outspoken proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Prior to being the SIEU’s in-house lawyer, Mr. Becker was a law professor at UCLA. During his academic life, he authored a 1993 article in the Minnesota Law Review, in which he argued:

  • Traditional notions of democracy should not apply in union elections.

  • Employers should be allowed to challenge union elections, even with evidence of union misconduct.

  • Employers should be prohibited from placing observers at the polls to challenge ballots.

  • Employer captive audience meetings should be grounds for overturning elections, and must grant unions equal access to company property.

It is unclear which of these ideas – including the EFCA for which the SEIU so strongly advocates – Mr. Becker things he could accomplish by administrative fiat as a member of the NLRB.

On February 9, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Mr. Becker’s nomination, effectively blocking his appointment. In the words of Senate Republican Ben Nelson:

Mr. Becker’s previous statements strongly indicate that he would take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB and that he would pursue a personal agenda there, rather than that of the administration. This is of great concern, considering that the board’s main responsibility is to resolve labor disputes with an even and impartial hand.

Now word has come that President Obama may make Mr. Becker a recess appointment to fill the three-year-old vacancy on the NLRB. This news comes on the heals of Vice President Biden’s comments to the AFL-CIO that the administration will “get [the EFCA] done.”

All of these developments should be sobering to businesses. And, the fact remains that statistics show that labor unions don’t need the help. According to recent NLRB data [pdf], labor unions win-rates in secret ballot elections is at its highest level in decades, at 66%. If Mr. Becker is appointed to the NLRB, expect his number to increase dramatically.

What can you legally do to prepare for the wave of union organizing that is on the horizon? Consider that according to the AFL-CIO Union Handbook for Organizers, the following 6 factors are likely to lower the chance of a successful organizing campaign:

  1. A belief by employees that the boss is not taking advantage of them.

  2. Employees who have pride in their work.

  3. Good performance records kept by the employer, which reinforces the recognition and appreciation of employees’ efforts and their feelings of job security.

  4. No claims of high-handed treatment, but instead firm, fair, and warranted discipline.

  5. No claims of favoritism, other than that is earned through work performance.

  6. Supervisors who have good relationships with subordinates.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or