Becker: Save Unions by "Restraining Freedom of Capital"

The NLRB has been taking a lot of heat lately, including right here, and has been ever since President Obama began stocking up the membership with folks who, shall we say, might not have had the most unbiased opinions regarding labor unions and employers. Among them, few have raised more eyebrows than Craig Becker. Those with good memories will recall that Becker’s nomination was rejected in the Senate, with the president subsequently putting him in place via a recess appointment.

The Daily Caller has been doing a bit more digging and come up with some of Becker’s early writing during his days with the Harvard Law Review. I’m sure this is going to make the make the man more popular than ever in some circles.

Old law review articles obtained by The Daily Caller that were authored by Becker further inflame the already heated debate. “The right to engage in concerted activity that is enshrined in the Wagner Act – even when construed in strictly contractual terms – implicitly entails legal restraint of the freedom of capital,” he wrote in the January 1987 edition of the Harvard Law Review. “What threatens to eviscerate labor’s collective legal rights, therefore, is less the common law principle of individual liberty than the mobility of capital, which courts have held immune from popular control.”

Workforce Fairness Institute spokesman Fred Wszolek said Becker’s old law school article is worrisome, given the degree of influence Becker has on the economy and on future labor policy.

“To learn that a member of President Obama’s labor board believes that the United States should somehow control or restrain the freedom of capital, or that the mobility of capital not being under ‘popular control’ is somehow a threat to Big Labor is simply not consistent with core American values,” Wszolek said in an email to TheDC. “The fact that Craig Becker will be one of the board members deciding whether the complaint against Boeing has any merit is something that should alarm every taxpayer and business in this nation concerned with jobs and the economy.”

I’m not sure if that quote was lifted line for line straight out of Marx, but I’ll confess there’s a definite similarity in style. So it’s not hard to see why some of the NLRB’s critics are looking to hang this particular piece of dirty laundry out on the line just as the fight over Boeing’s expansion in South Carolina is heating up.

But the analysis from Bill Wilson contained in the article is worth a look. What Becker seems to be arguing in his early works is essentially an admission that unions might not be able to survive in a modern capitalist society on their own merit, and therefore need the direct and forceful intervention of the federal government to provide an assured outcome, rather than a true “collective bargaining” environment between equal parties. And, perhaps even more obviously, arguing against the “free flow of capital” in an open, capitalist society is somewhat troubling, no?

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