AFL-CIO urges supporters to challenge White House about NLRB
By Alec MacGillis
In a clear indication that labor unions are running out of patience with the Obama administration, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka sent out a sharply worded action alert to its entire e-mail list Friday evening, urging phone calls to the White House to protest its inaction on two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
Republicans have called one nominee, Craig Becker, a controversial choice for the board. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was "the first person nominated" for the NLRB "who comes directly from a labor organization." Becker is the associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union.
After the GOP threatened to filibuster the nomination, senators refused Tuesday to move to a vote on Becker, killing his confirmation. The White House has since indicated that President Obama will not appoint Becker to the position during Congress' recess next week.
That latest news prompted Trumka's e-mail, in which he also objects to the languishing nomination of labor trial lawyer Mark Pearce to the board.
Larry Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said it was not surprising that the AFL-CIO was taking up arms.
"It is pretty disheartening to see the president not really protecting his nominees," Mishel said. "People need to see him fighting."
The labor movement has swallowed a lot in the first year of the Obama administration. Unions had very high hopes after eight years of George W. Bush, who invited the president of the AFL-CIO across the street to the White House only once in eight years (when the pope visited).
And organized labor had done a great deal to help elect a Democratic president and congressional majority, turning out its members to vote for Obama in key Rust Belt swing states where he struggled with other working-class voters.
But Congress and Obama have barely budged on labor's biggest priority, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to organize workers. The legislation was watered down to pass muster with conservative Senate Democrats, but the loss of the 60th Democratic vote last month may well have doomed even the compromise version.
Organized labor's other big agenda item, universal health care, is also in limbo. Even if a reform bill passes, it's quite possible that it will not include some of the last-minute concessions that unions won to reduce the impact on their members. Of the greatest concern is a tax on costly health insurance plans, a tax that Obama pushed to include in the legislation over unions' strong opposition.
The text of the alert follows:
* * *
We've just learned that the Senate and the White House cut a last-minute deal with obstructionist Republicans to approve some of President Obama's nominees. But guess who was left out of the deal? Yup, that's right: working people.
Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, highly respected labor lawyers whom President Obama nominated for seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), weren't included in the deal. Meanwhile, the NLRB, tasked with protecting American workers' rights, has been handicapped with vacancies for the past two years.
Enough is enough. Call the White House switchboard today and demand that President Obama fight Republican obstructionism and use his executive power to appoint Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the NLRB during the Presidents Day recess.
Call the White House Switchboard NOW: 202-456-1111 OR 202-456-1414.
Becker already has received majority backing in the Senate and both won committee support, but the Republican minority has continually blocked their appointments. America's working people are getting short shrift and it's past time to do something about it. Workers need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act and protect workers' rights--not an NLRB handicapped by vacancies.
Richard L. Trumka
February 12, 2010; 6:45 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Cast of Characters
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