The Wall Street Journal slammed Obama recess appointee Craig Becker this week for participating in cases before the National Labor Relations Board involving his former employer, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU):
In his few months at the NLRB, Mr. Becker, former associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union, has refused to recuse himself from most cases involving his former employer. This despite the fact that Mr. Becker signed the Obama Administration’s vaunted ethics pledge, in which he promised to refrain for two years from participating in "any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer."
In true lawyerly fashion, Mr. Becker is now running for the loopholes, arguing that the SEIU proper is a "distinct legal entity" that is different from local SEIU unions. Having liberated himself from that legal barrier, Mr. Becker says he intends to continue judging disputes that feature local SEIU shops. He even convinced the NLRB’s inspector general—who was asked to investigate one of the failure-to-recuse cases—to buy the separate legal entity line.
From a technical legal standpoint, SEIU locals may well be distinct from Mr. Becker’s former employer. Yet the clear intention of President Obama’s ethics pledge was to eliminate obvious political conflicts of interest. The example of a former SEIU lawyer like Mr. Becker sitting in judgment on cases featuring SEIU locals is Conflict 101.
No one understands better than Mr. Becker the deep organizational and financial ties between the SEIU and its locals, having been the attorney who crafted national legal strategies for use by SEIU locals everywhere. NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman (another Obama appointee) has applied a more rigorous and appropriate standard of recusal for herself in cases involving her former employer, the Teamsters.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing workers in several cases involving SEIU locals, sent a letter Monday requesting that the Department of Justice investigate whether Mr. Becker has violated his pledge. Let’s hope Attorney General Eric Holder isn’t as cavalier about that request as President Obama was with Mr. Becker’s appointment.