The National Labor Relations Board ought to be about the last place to find anyone with a history of union corruption. But Richard Griffin (see photo), an NLRB member and former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), may be the exception. Griffin last October was named as a defendant in a federal racketeering suit filed by 10 members of IUOE Local 501 in Los Angeles. The complaint alleges Griffin, during his tenure representing the international union, was complicit in a "scheme to defraud [the local] out of revenue, cost savings and membership." Dozens of union members, the suit charges, engaged in kickbacks, bribery, threats and extortion.
Now Wall Street analysts are wondering the same thing, and the beleaguered lenders at the Department of Energy must be deeply concerned about what they will do next. As Forbesreported yesterday, the close ties between the two speculative companies could produce “two Solyndras for the price of one."
Unions for many years have been a highly reliable segment of the Democratic Party Left. Yet this perhaps no more was this true than in 2011 - and with good reason. The year began with the Republicans holding a nearly 50-seat edge in the House of Representatives following the GOP's smashing wins in the November 2010 midterm elections. Avoiding legislative process became a top priority for organized labor.
It's almost given that a Democratic member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has at least some background as a union lawyer. Craig Becker, who long had been associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) before obtaining a recess appointment to the board by President Obama in March 2010 following a Senate GOP filibuster, fits the pattern. But he also may have gone that extra mile, helping to prepare an SEIU manual on how to intimidate employers. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants to know more. On September 12, Hatch wrote a letter to Becker asking him to clarify what role he had, if any, in drafting the document. As Becker is up for Senate approval for a full-term appointment to the (normally) five-member NLRB, his response - or lack of it - may affect the course of board rulings for years to come.
It's been more than 50 years since Congress passed a major piece of legislation to curb union privileges. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah (see photo), thinks that's far too long. On August 2, Sen. Hatch, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, along with freshman Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced a far-reaching reform bill, the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2810, S. 1507), to align labor law with emerging workplace realities of a market economy. The bill would shield individual workers from the arbitrary power of union leaders, long accustomed to equating their own interests with those of American workers as a whole. Hatch admitted that passage won't be easy. "I fully expect the unions and their supporters to come out against to Employee Rights Act, and characterize it as a radical, anti-union bill."
The Department of Labor under President Obama appears to be doing everything it can to accommodate union interests, especially when it comes to investigating corruption. But a few members of Congress are openly objecting. Among them is Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Hatch on April 22 issued a rebuke to a decision by the department the previous day to roll back new rules designed to make union officials more accountable to the workers they represent. "It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is choosing a time of financial crisis to cut investigations into financial corruption solely because it may reside in its own politically constituency," he said.