The framers of the Constitution required the President to get the consent of the Senate before appointing senior government officials. They wanted to prevent the President from appointing those who would abuse the public trust. President Obama’s purported appointment of Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) yesterday illustrates the importance of this constitutional restraint.
The union movement has a problem: Just one in 10 nonunion workers wants to join a union. Few workers believe that unions have much to offer, and even fewer want their company to wind up like General Motors. Consequently, private-sector union membership has fallen below 7 percent.
The union movement wants to reverse this decline, but it does not want to fundamentally reform itself to appeal to today’s workers. So it has turned to the government to make it difficult for workers to decline its services. Unions lobbied Congress to end the secret ballot in union elections, forcing workers to publicly tell union organizers whether or not they wanted to join. Fortunately, that bill went nowhere.
Unions have now turned to the NLRB to boost their ranks—even though the NLRB is supposed to serve as a neutral arbitrator between unions and employers. President Obama appointed Craig Becker—former counsel for the AFL–CIO—to the board. Becker had an already-developed plan to use the board’s powers to increase union membership, and the board has been implementing this agenda.
In just the past year, the NLRB shortened union elections to as little as 14 days, limiting employees’ ability to hear from both sides before they vote; allowed unions to cherry pick which workers in a company can vote on unionizing; and prevented workers from insisting on a secret ballot in union drives. These initiatives will make life easier for union organizers at the expense of individual workers’ rights.
Unionized companies create fewer new jobs than nonunion companies. Union dues cost hundreds of dollars a year. Workers have the right to unionize if they want, but a government agency should not press them into it—and certainly not when former officials of those unions run that agency.
Becker’s recess appointment expired at the end of the last session of Congress, and with it the activist majority on the NLRB. To replace Becker, President Obama nominated Richard Griffin, the general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers. Another union lawyer would continue the board’s agenda-driven activism.
The Senate’s advice and consent powers exist to check such appointments. Senate conservatives are right to demand that the President nominate board members who see their mission as protecting workers’ rights, not increasing union membership. The President cannot constitutionally ignore their advice.