March 29th, 2012 | Matt Pavich
Just when it looked as though the firestorm of controversy surrounding the recess appointments of three new members to the NLRB was subsiding, news broke this week that the Board’s Inspector General has issued a report accusing one of the new members, Terence F. Flynn, of giving “deliberative, pre-decisional information” that was considered “the most confidential of Agency information,” to former Board members Peter Schaumber and Peter Kirsanow. At the time, Kirasnow was representing the National Association of Manufacturers, which had opposed several recent NLRB initiatives. In fact, shortly after the alleged contact, the NAM filed a lawsuit against the Board over the Board’s notice posting rule.
Flynn, whatever else he may have done, has managed the impossible. He’s gotten union leaders and Republican representatives to agree on something.
Representative John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, blamed the manner of the recess appointments for the current fiasco.
“Three individuals now sit on the National Labor Relations Board, despite never participating in a public hearing, and in some cases, sidestepping the traditional confirmation process altogether,” said Kline. “Both President Obama and Senate Democrats allowed partisan politics to obstruct the public’s right to examine the backgrounds of these individuals.”
Union leaders, including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, immediately called on Flynn to resign. Most noted that Schaumber is now advising Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney on labor matters. The union leaders suggested that rank partisanship was behind Flynn’s alleged actions.
Maybe they’re all right. And maybe they’re all to blame. There is scant question but that the Board has becoming a political punching bag during the Obama Administration. Members of Kline’s own committee calling for the abolition of the Board. If the IG’s report is accurate, Flynn may have been under intense political pressure to help his ideological comrades when he provided the information to Schaumber and Kirsanow.
So, politics has infected the independent Board. To paraphrase Captain Renault, I’m shocked, shocked to see that the intrusion of politics into the Board’s processes has had such serious ramifications. Now, what is to be done.
Here’s a suggestion. If the report is accurate, let this incident be the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If the political intrusion into the Board’s work has become so acute that a Board counsel chose to supply information to help one side in the ongoing labor wars, then haven’t we reached a point at which enough truly is enough? For all the concern that the manner of the recess appointments would damage the Board’s credibility and integrity, that process was nothing compared to the potential damage inherent in Flynn’s alleged actions. If Board members and employees are going to start assisting parties with business before the Board, then the Board cannot hold itself out as an impartial arbiter of labor disputes. And that may be the greatest shame in all this mess. Because now, more than ever, we need impartial judges to mediate these increasingly bitter disputes.
So, everyone, step away. Let’s stop pressuring the Board and let it do it’s job.