Craig Becker’s recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was a big victory for labor unions and bad news for U.S. employers, especially union-free employers. Becker, appointed by President Obama on March 27 without Senate approval, is widely expected to push an aggressively pro-union agenda on the five-member board that regulates much of U.S. labor-management relations. In his published writings, Becker has advocated radical revision of the rules governing union organizing elections, making it harder for employers to resist unionization. Among other things, he has stated that employers:

  • “should have no right to be heard” in election-related proceedings before the NLRB;
  • “should have no right to raise questions concerning voter eligibility or campaign conduct” by labor unions and “should not be entitled to charge that unions disobeyed the rules”;
  • should have no right to hold mandatory meetings of employees to discuss the union organizing campaign and the election;
  • should have no right to speak in the workplace about union-organizing issues at all, unless the union is granted equal time in the workplace; and
  • in general, “should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representative.”

Becker, who will serve at least through 2011, has argued that the NLRB can and should make these changes by case decision and regulation, avoiding congressional action. He is also expected to support implementation of many provisions of the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” in the same way, including restrictions on employer speech regarding unionizing, “snap elections” to minimize the employer’s opportunity to campaign, and increased penalties for employer misconduct.  

Union-free employers who wish to remain that way should keep a wary eye on the NLRB for the next two years.