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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

The US Chamber of Commerce on Obama's Labor Appointments

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Next week U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief Tom Donohue will be making the Chamber’s big State of American Business Address.  The group is turning 100 and in the past century American business has certainly transformed.  One area unfortunately that continues to still be the same old story is the battle between big labor and companies.

Recently, Mike Eastman, executive director of Labor Law Policy for the Chamber, gave us the Chamber's view of recent appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

LL: The President made the announcement on Wednesday the recess appointment of NLRB. This move sidestepped the Senate approvals but there are legal authorities saying the GOP in the Senate used Pro Form sessions (a brief meeting on the floor of the Senate) to avoid recess. What does the Chamber think of the appointment?

ME: The NLRB’s credibility has suffered greatly during this administration due to an aggressive agenda favoring the unions. The president could have chosen to work with the Senate and stakeholders to see if a package of nominees could be confirmed that would help restore the agency’s independence and credibility. Instead, today’s steps will simply further poison the well with regard to labor-management issues pending in front of the Board and on Capitol Hill.

LL: What do you think about the timing of these nominations?

ME: The union backed nominees were only sent up to Senate on December 15th so Members have not had the opportunity to vet them to determine whether they should or should not be confirmed. The usual process was short-circuited.

LL: The appointments  for the NLRB are all pro labor [Flynn is not]: Democratic union lawyer Richard Griffin, Democratic Labor Department official Sharon Block and Republican NLRB lawyer Terence Flynn. Do you think this board is balanced and will be objective enough to referee cases between the private-sector employers and employees?

ME: The NLRB’s credibility has suffered greatly due to an aggressive agenda favoring the unions. Employers are already concerned that they will not get a fair hearing from the board, and the new appointments exacerbate those concerns.

LL: What are your members saying on these latest nominations?

ME: Employers have been very concerned about the NLRB’s aggressive pro-union agenda over the last 18 months in part due to the 2010 recess appointment of very controversial nominee Craig Becker. The prospects of Board vacancies created an opportunity to restore credibility to the Board. Instead, employers are worried that the aggressive pro-union agenda at the Board will continue, further damaging the Board’s credibility.

LL: Do these actions create further political uncertainty for the business community?

ME: The new appointments certainly contribute to the uncertainty employers are already facing, by putting the authority of the Board and the validity of the Board’s work in legal jeopardy. The new appointments also add to the perception that the NLRB will continue its unrestrained agenda favoring unions over employers.

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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."