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July 06, 2010

IG Investigates Obama's NLRB Recess Appointment


President Obama gave Craig Becker a recess appointment to the NLRB at the end of March, after Republicans unanimously opposed his nomination. The Republicans noted that it would be inappropriate to put the Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU on the board that oversees union elections and labor practices, since he couldn't be expected to demonstrate impartiality or be free from conflicts of interest.

Roll the clock forward a few months and Becker was already ruling on cases in which the SEIU is a party.

Sure enough, on June 2, Becker joined in on an NLRB decision involving SEIU Local 1957 and denied St. Barnabas Hospital's request to review a union election. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked the Inspector General to examiner Becker's conflict of interest in the matter. An investigation is underway.

The NLRB told The Washington Examiner Becker isn't commenting on the investigation but did pass along a windy ruling Becker authored on recusal motions. Becker argues it would be appropriate to recuse him from cases involving the national SEIU but not cases involving the local chapters because they are "distinct legal entit[ies]."

Does Becker's hairsplitting seem reasonable? Hardly. The SEIU's own constitution says the national union has "jurisdiction over its affiliated bodies and all Local Unions."

More than that, the national union pools the affiliation fees of the locals and uses the pool to provide funding for locals involved in litigation. The national union is thus inextricably linked to locals, particularly when they get dragged in front of the NLRB or the courts.

How do we know this? Well, Becker -- while Associate General Counsel to the national union -- represented locals in court. Here's a sample:

Guardsmark, LLC v. NLRB, 475 F.3d 369 (D.C. Or. 2007) (SEIU Local 24/7); NLRB v. Local 32B-32J Service Employees Infi Union, 353 F.3d 197 (2d Cir. 2003); First Healthcare Corp. v. NLRB, 344 F.3d 523(6th Cir. 2003) (SEIU Local 399); Stanford Hosp. and Clinics v. NLRB, 325 F.3d 334 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (SEIU Local 715); Beverly Health & Rehab. Serv., Inc. v. NLRB, 317 F.3d 316 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (SEIU District 1199P); Beverly Health & Rehab. Serv., Inc. v. NLRB, 297 F.3d 468 (6th Cir. 2002) (SEIU Local 585); NLRB v. DeBartelo, 241 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2001) (SEIU Local 32B-32J); General Service Employees Union, Local 73 v. NLRB, 230 F.3d 909 (7th Cir. 2000) (SEIU Local 73); NLRB v. Hilliard Dev. Corp., 187 F.3d 133 (1st Cir. 1999) (SEIU Local 285); Service Employees Infi Union Local 102 v. County of San Diego, 35 F.3d 483, opinion amended & supplemented, 60 F.3d 1346 (9th Cir. 1994); Beverly Enter., Inc. v. Trump, 1 F. Supp. 2d 489 (W.D. Pa. 1998 ) (SEIU Local 585).

Note how many of those cases involved union claims against hospitals. The case that Becker is getting investigated for also involves a hospital. It seems to be something of a specialty for him.

Becker says that recusal is not required because the locals are "distinct" from the national union. I'm sure it will come as a shock, but it appears that Becker's a lying liar.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:27 AM

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