• Former union attorneys Craig Becker (D) and Mark G Pearce (D) were sworn in as members of the National Labor Relations Board, ending 27 months of the Board having only two of five positions filled. Because President Obama appointed Becker and Pearce during a Congressional recess, their terms will expire at the end of the Senate’s 2011 session unless they are confirmed. Obama declined to recess-appoint his third nominee, Brian E. Hayes (R). Becker was associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union from 1990-2004 and has been an AFL-CIO staff counsel since 2004. Pearce was a partner with a union-side law firm in Buffalo, N.Y. At a conference Board Member Wilma Liebman (D) said the Board is unlikely to make “radical” policy changes with the two recess appointments, but said the Board has an opportunity to apply the law “in a way that reinvigorates collective bargaining,” particularly in light of the economic downturn.
  • Federally-registered political action committees sponsored by labor unions had the largest increase in financial activity of all PACs in 2009 compared with 2007. The Federal Election Commission reported that labor PACs reported a 12 percent gain in total receipts ($128.9 million), a 22.5 percent increase in disbursements ($95.7 million spent and $26.3 million donated to candidates), and a 1.2 percent increase in contributions from 2007. Although corporate PACs experienced decreases in receipts and disbursements for the same period, they still outspent labor PACs, taking in $152.6 million in receipts, disbursing $131.2 million, and contributing $72.1 million to candidates.
  • A final rule published in the Federal Register encourages federal agencies to consider the use of a project labor agreement on a case-by-case basis on large-scale construction projects where the total cost to the government is $25 million or more. The rule, which implements a February 2009 executive order signed by President Obama, encourages agency planners to consider using PLAs early in the acquisition process, identifies a number of factors agencies may consider in deciding whether to use a PLA, and states that an agency may specify in a solicitation the terms and conditions of the PLA as appropriate and require the successful offeror to become a party to the PLA as a condition of receiving a contract award. Industry groups threatened to challenge the rule.
  • The President of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department said at the federation’s annual legislative conference that it would continue pushing a labor-oriented agenda even after the passage of health care reform. Mark Ayres pointed to the need for the Obama administration to act on project labor agreements, job creation programs, benefit protections, worker misclassification, and Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage standards. Vice President Joe Biden told conference attendees the administration supports PLAs, protections against worker misclassification, and prevailing wage standards.
  • A coalition of labor unions and grass-roots and faith-based organization announced demonstrations and other actions targeting Wall Street investment banks in a campaign to start putting the country’s economic recovery “ahead of their oversized profits and platinum bonuses.” The group, which includes the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, will conduct protest actions outside big banks, attend the Wells Fargo and Bank of America shareholder meetings, and conduct field meetings with Treasury Department officials aimed at holding banks accountable for loan modifications.
  • The AFL-CIO said it is not “backing away” from efforts to secure Congressional passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, though the bill as currently written is stalled in the Senate. Fred Azcarate, director of the AFL-CIO’s Voice@Work Campaign, said at a town hall meeting that the federation is exploring other options for getting the provisions enacted, including possibly using administrative measures to enact portions of the bill. President Obama, a self-described “pro-union guy,” has said the administration is taking administrative steps to ensure people “get the fair chance to organize.”
  • Health and safety officials for the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers of America praised the new Severe Violator Enforcement Program unveiled by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but added that they still want legislation passed to give OSHA more enforcement power. The SVEP is designed to bring more severe penalties and inspections on employers who demonstrate indifference to their OSH obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.
  • The State Employees Association of North Carolina, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, is seeking to form an alternative political party in the state that seeks to represent the interests of working families after three Democratic representatives voted against the recent health-care reform legislation. To put forward candidates in the 2010 elections, the new political party, called North Carolina First, must provide 86,000 signatures by June 1. The union, which has about 55,000 members who are current and former state employees, has been knocking on doors in Raleigh and Charlotte.