Report: Obama's Union-Packed Labor Board Dysfunctional

Report: Obama's Union-Packed Labor Board Dysfunctional

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has traditionally been the federal government’s neutral arbiter of disputes between labor and businesses. It’s tasked with giving a fair hearing to unions, workers and businesses. However, according to a new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, President Obama has packed the Board with pro-union lawyers. The agency has morphed into another arm of the labor movement. 

The report arises out of an investigation examining internal emails and communications by political appointees within the agency. The documents reviewed show a clear pattern of pro-union sentiment within the Board. After the NLRB filed a complaint against Boeing, attempting to block the company from opening a plant in right-to-work South Carolina, Board staff displayed in e-mails a clear bias towards the union. 

  • The NLRB’s Associate General Counsel, Barry Kearney, praised an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) press release related to the Boeing case, stating, “[h]ooray for the red, white, and blue.”
  • Upon receiving Boeing’s Answer to the complaint, one NLRB attorney forwarded it to other NLRB attorneys and declared “[l]et the games begin” to which one attorney responded “finally…”
  • The NLRB’s head of public affairs, Nancy Cleeland, wrote to NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon worried that she “made the Machinists [union] mad” and wanted to discuss it.
  • Mr. Solomon forwarded an email to then-NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman and Ms. Cleeland expressing praise from a union attorney who “spoke about how impressed everyone is with all [Mr. Solomon] ha[s] been attempting to do and accomplishing.” This email was accompanied by a blog posting entitled, “Labor Board Grows a Set,” by the former head of ACORN, Wade Rathke.

The report details many other problems with the increasingly rogue agency. Its recent rules have been overturned by the courts as overstepping the Board’s authority. Officials at the Board have also come under scrutiny for possible ethics violations. 

Many of the problems plaguing the Board stem from Obama’s placing former-union attorneys into positions of leadership on the Board. 

Obama appointed Richard Griffin, Jr., Sharon Block, and Terence Flynn to the board in January without congressional approval. The administration has argued that the three controversial nominations fell under his recess authority; however, Congress was not in recess for the requisite three days at the time.

Elections have consequences. President Obama will have another four years to push the Board even more into the labor camp. At least some House Republicans are using their oversight authority to bring these moves to the light of day.