Aug. 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Jacobson: Moving to Plan B for Labor’s Pains

Tuesday’s nomination hearing for National Labor Relations Board nominee Craig Becker officially marks a quiet but important pivot in the administration’s strategy to meet the agenda demands of its biggest donor base, organized labor. Visible, big-ticket items are now out. What’s in? Under-the-radar regulatory efforts.The initial plan lasted 12 months before dying quietly. The White House and Congressional Democrats paid appropriate lip service to the Employee Free Choice Act, which was widely reputed to be Big Labor’s top political priority. The bill, though, is so unpopular that Virginia’s newly elected governor made his opposition to it a central part of his campaign. And Republicans across the country are using the issue to bludgeon their opponents.Then there’s health care legislation, which couldn’t be resuscitated even with the jolt of a galling “Cadillac” tax exclusion for unions and public employees (who now make up the majority of all union members). There’s little evidence that — barring an unforeseen outbreak of bipartisanship ahead of November’s election — this issue that used to be No. 2 on labor’s agenda will get anything but a toe tag in 2010.While both issues have always faced long odds, the stunning win by Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R) has made the future even dimmer for labor’s legislation. Thus, we have today’s hearing for Becker, a longtime strategist and lawyer for organized labor. If they can’t get “card check” through a broad, participatory legislative process, they’ll push to grab a similar victory through the federal board’s ability to regulate without approval of the people’s Representatives.As such, this hearing — demanded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is troubled by Becker’s blatantly anti-employer views — signals that we have officially hit plan B on the administration’s strategy for pandering to the organized labor lobby. This new course will focus on the quiet job-killer of regulation and card check by fiat.It’s not just a fight over Becker, though; there are other regulatory efforts under way to ensure that some of labor’s largesse in political contributions finds a positive “return on investment.” On Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require employers to begin recording whether any injury fits into a new category of ill-defined problems known as musculoskeletal disorders. Employer groups worry these MSDs could be WMDs in a future fight over ergonomics, if any ache and pain (occurring from work or not) can be thrown into a conglomerated statistic implying a rash of new workplace injuries.Combine that with the administration’s expected push to impose new restrictions on combustible dust, taking money from OSHA partner programs to funnel to enforcement activity and driving other efforts within the Department of Labor to close off transparency requirements on union officials.

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