Floor and Committee Statements

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 -

Floor Statement on Craig Becker

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on Craig Becker
Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor

Mr. President, first of all, just to amplify the record on the Lilly Ledbetter case, the Supreme Court did not rule against Ms. Ledbetter. They upheld the statute of limitations of 180 days for claims filed under civil rights laws. She had come to the court, not a few months after the alleged incident, but years and years later. Only then did she try to make a case. The Court was upholding the law which this Congress passed.

Secondly, I rise, reluctantly, to oppose the nomination of Craig Becker, and I do so based on experience, not based on a whim, not based on politics but based on what I have experienced in the past 6 months in terms of confirmation in labor-related positions.

As you may know, I am from Atlanta, GA. That is the home of Delta Air Lines that has recently merged with Northwest Airlines to form the largest airlines in the United States of America. The National Mediation Board oversees labor issues with regard to the industry.

In the merger of Delta and Northwest, the merger of two different companies with different cultures--Delta less organized and Northwest more--one of the major questions about that merger as it related to labor law was what would the law be to govern a unionization vote, in this case, of the flight attendants. Northwest flight attendants were organized; Delta's were not. For the 75-year history of the Railway Labor Act in the United States of America, the principle of the National Mediation Board called for a majority vote of all members of the company in the employee class, meaning if there were 1,000 flight attendants in the class, it would take 501 votes to pass a motion to organize.

As we considered the nominees for the National Mediation Board in the HELP Committee last year, I spent extensive time questioning the two Democrat nominees who were nominated for the Board. I pressed them on this very issue trying to ensure that we had what Senator DURBIN referred to; that is, absolutely equal treatment and not a bias in terms of determination of labor decisions. I listened to these appointees over and over again say they would be fair, they would not be biased, and they did not have a preconceived position, and I voted for them.

Within weeks of being seated, they issued a proposed rule at the behest of labor unions, voting 2 to 1 to change the 75-year-old policy. In the face of a unionization vote getting ready to take place at the world's largest airline, they are attempting change the 75-year policy of the National Mediation Board. If they are successful, they will allow a simple majority of the number of people voting to replace the current policy which is a majority of the total number of employees in the class. In the case of the example I gave before in which if there were 1,000 people in the class, under existing law it would take 501 to organize. That is fair. By changing to a majority of those voting if only 100 voted, it would only take 51 to vote to organize the entire class of 1,000 employees within a company. That is a radical shift in the balance between labor and management, without any changes on the ground to merit such a departure from precedent.

Secondly, many on the other side are always talking about the Employee Free Choice Act and how we ought to make it easier to organize. In 2008, which is the last year for which I have statistics, 67 percent of all unionization votes under existing law were in favor of organizing. EFCA amounts to a solution toward a problem we don't have.

Mr. Becker is a very gifted, talented attorney. I sat in for Senator ENZI as ranking member at the confirmation hearing we had in the HELP committee 2 weeks ago, and I asked him about these specific questions. He was very careful and crafty in his answers. I came away not convinced that the statements of Mr. Acuff, the statements of Mr. Iglitzin, and the statements of former NLRB Member Gould were inaccurate. Each of those pro-union experts has written that Mr. Becker's appointment offers an opportunity to do by regulatory authority what could not be done on the floor of the Senate in terms of card check and government-written first contracts. This concern, combined with the National Mediation Board's refusal to obey 75 years of precedent leads me to only one conclusion. Out of an abundance of caution, I am going to vote against the confirmation of Mr. Becker in hopes the administration will send a nominee to the floor who is committed to a balanced treatment of both organized labor and management in this country.