Tuesdays nomination hearing for National Labor Relations Board nominee Craig Becker officially marks a quiet but important pivot in the administrations strategy to meet the agenda demands of its biggest donor base, organized labor. Visible, big-ticket items are now out. Whats 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 Labors top political priority. The bill, though, is so unpopular that Virginias 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 theres health care legislation, which couldnt 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). Theres little evidence that barring an unforeseen outbreak of bipartisanship ahead of Novembers election this issue that used to be No. 2 on labors 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 labors legislation. Thus, we have todays hearing for Becker, a longtime strategist and lawyer for organized labor. If they cant get card check through a broad, participatory legislative process, theyll push to grab a similar victory through the federal boards ability to regulate without approval of the peoples Representatives.As such, this hearing demanded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is troubled by Beckers blatantly anti-employer views signals that we have officially hit plan B on the administrations 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.Its not just a fight over Becker, though; there are other regulatory efforts under way to ensure that some of labors 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 administrations 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.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.