This past week, President Obama did little to reassure businesses that his administration is concerned with job creation and economic growth. In fact, his decisions sent the exact opposite message. In the fifth year of his presidency, Obama’s rhetoric at this stage does little to move the needle. Employees and employers have heard all the applause lines time and again. They are watching the president’s performance to see if he finally gets it. Unfortunately, his actions surrounding the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) do not instill any confidence; they inject greater uncertainty.
Due to the agreement reached in the U.S Senate to thwart the so-called “nuclear option,” two of the five nominees to the NLRB will be withdrawn. The nuclear option would have removed the decades-old ability of Senators to filibuster executive-level nominations by creating a standard requiring only majority support, but was stopped at the 11th hour preserving Senate tradition for the time being.
With the withdrawal of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block from the Board because of their unconstitutional appointments last year, the president was in a position to nominate two new individuals to the federal agency. Almost as quickly as the Senate deal was announced, President Obama huddled with American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka on who should be announced as replacements.
The sight of a U.S. president brazenly taking instruction from a special interest should have everyone concerned. Considering Obama and Democrats for Congress received nearly one billion dollars in support during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns from Big Labor, including Trumka, the imagery is downright unbecoming. Yet, that’s exactly what unfolded and the result was the selection of Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa.
Schiffer was long-time counsel to Trumka at the AFL-CIO. This does not remotely resemble the promise of change President Obama made citizens five years ago. This represents one of the most glaring examples of a political patron receiving preferential treatment in recent memory that I can recall.
Not surprisingly, as the AFL-CIO’s former associate general counsel, Schiffer has staked out positions beneficial to Big Labor and detrimental to American workers and small businesses. The best example is her support for the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act or card check. Schiffer said card check protected workers from the “inherently and intensely coercive environment” of the workplace.
The president’s selection of Kent Hirozawa isn’t much better. Hirozawa currently serves as the chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce. The agency chairman has a long track record of supporting policies that are downright threatening to employees, starting with providing worker contact information to labor bosses during union organizing efforts. Also, Hirozawa formerly represented unions as a partner at a New York-based law firm.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more. Having been forced by the legislative branch to withdraw the nominations of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block because they were unconstitutionally serving on the Board for more than one year after being “recess” appointed despite the fact the Senate was actually in session, there are news reports that President Obama has decided to nominate Griffin to the role of NLRB general counsel.
All of this takes us to the same place we started; our nation currently has a chief executive who is making decisions based on politics, not the best interests of the men and women who create the jobs and fuel the economy. It is likely that due to President Obama’s actions, job creators will continue to sit on the sidelines much as they have done for the last five years and withhold investing and expanding until they see indications the leadership in Washington is willing to begin working with them, not continually against them as has been the case.
Hector Barreto is currently the chairman of The Latino Coalition and previously served as the administrator of the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA).