Despite a great deal of protest from several Republicans and the business community, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) voted 15 to 8 to approve the nominations of Craig Becker, Mark Pearce, and Brian Hayes to be members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). President Obama named Pearce and Becker, both Democrats and widely considered pro-labor, as nominees on April 24 of this year. Hayes, a Republican and Senate committee staff member, was selected on July 9. Now that these nominations have cleared the HELP committee, they will be sent to the Senate floor as a package for final approval.
Controversy surrounding these selections has focused primarily on Becker, who serves as Associate General Counsel to both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations. Pearce – who has practiced union-side labor law for much of his career – has not garnered nearly as much controversy. Both on the eve of the committee vote and previously, a number of business groups called for a hearing on Becker’s nomination. Among other criticisms of Becker, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups have highlighted an article published in 1993 in the Minnesota Law Review in which Becker claimed that “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.” Others fear that Becker, who is a proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), will be willing to use Board decisions to effectively institute parts of the proposed act.
Senators Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have both strongly expressed their opposition to sending the three nominations as a package to the Senate floor (presenting the three individuals as a package limits the chances that the Senate will evaluate Becker on an individual basis). Sen. McCain has already stated that he plans to put a hold on Becker’s nomination, and Sen. Hatch submitted a statement on the record condemning Becker’s selection.