GOP leaders oppose the rights enforced by the NLRB

Schaumber, a regular critic of the NLRB’s “misdeeds” in right-wing media, would clearly benefit from the information Flynn is accused of supplying, including board strategy in defending its rules against litigation by conservative groups.

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Earlier this year, Schaumber, who has attacked the board’s “regulatory sorcery,” wrote, “Being impartial no longer fits the job description for a member of the NLRB…. It disqualifies you.” At the same time, it appears that Schaumber was practicing some sorcery of his own, with the assistance of somewhat less than impartial Republicans at the board. Schumber’s “business plan” – discovered on Flynn’s NLRB computer – stated he would “leverage” his “agency connections” (plural) to focus the attention “on the likely priorities of the Obama board and strategies to respond to them.”

The Romney campaign, whose candidate has accused Obama of packing the board with “union stooges,” has thus far refused to comment.

Kirsanow, who testified last year on the need to “quash” the board’s election rule, also stood to gain from confidential information. The NAM, according to Kirsanow, has been “at the forefront” of the legal fight against the NLRB, and Kirsanow has represented it in this litigation. Inone telling section, the IG’s report relates how, at Kirsanow’s request, Flynn asked NLRB personnel to search for previous challenges to board rulemaking. In other words, instead of using NLRB resources to defend it against external litigation, as intended, Flynn was using them to assist an outside group involved in litigation against the board.

How much did critics of the board benefit from Flynn’s improper disclosures and what did they use the information for?

As yet, we don’t have good answers to these questions – the IG had access only to emails from May 2011 forward and stated that Flynn “lacked candor” during the investigatory interview – and it may take the attorney general, who now has a copy of the report, to uncover the full extent and impact of any wrongdoing. However, in hindsight, the Chamber of Commerce’s decision to file its lawsuit to block the new election rule, “on information and belief,” two days before it was officially published, appears remarkably good timing.

In an act of stunning hypocrisy, the Chamber claims that the outlook from the board in 2012 is “more labor favoritism.” It appears lost on the Chamber that a senior NLRB attorney secretly providing confidential documents for the benefit of one side during litigation -- not the board trying to improve enforcement of the law – is, almost by definition, “favoritism.”

The real scandal here is not the NLRB’s ethically-challenged GOP members, but that instead of tackling widespread economic distress, Hill Republicans have pursued an ideological crusade against the NLRB, joining forces with conservative groups that may have acted with the assistance of improperly (and perhaps illegally) divulged confidential information.

The scandal lays bare the rank hypocrisy at the heart of the GOP’s attacks on the NLRB.  When asked about Flynn’s misconduct, John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, blamed -- without a hint of irony -- President Obama’s NLRB recess appointments. House Republicans had initially appeared to want to keep the IG’s report secret, then sat on it for several days, before George Miller, ranking Democrat on the Committee, released it last Friday.

Protesting President Obama’s recess appointments, Schaumber stated: “The hypocrisy of it all is corrosive.” His words, if not their context, are an apt description of these events. In any other democratic country, the GOP would be ridiculed for such barefaced hypocrisy. In U.S., where money controls political debate, its doublespeak is rewarded.


Logan is Professor and Director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University. Between 2000-2008, he was an assistant and associate professor in the School of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science.