Once again, an African American nominee with an impeccable record as a scholar is being maliciously attacked by Republicans in the Senate.
It sounds all too familiar. Only the name has changed. Today, it’s William B. Gould IV, the Stanford Law School professor who has been named to chair the National Labor Relations Board.
Last week, because of GOP obstruction, the Senate postponed consideration of Gould’s nomination until next year.
This is yet another case of Republicans--acting at the behest of their special-interest benefactors--throwing the Senate into gridlock and going beyond the bounds of reasonable opposition behavior to prevent the President from making needed changes in government.
Between 1981 and 1993, Presidents Reagan and Bush stacked the NLRB with unabashedly anti-labor members. Reagan’s first nominee for NLRB chairman was a professional union-buster hired by companies to keep unions out. Reagan’s second nominee revealed that he opposed collective bargaining because it somehow violated a tenet of the free market. The NLRB went from a neutral arbiter of labor-management disputes to being an all-out advocate for management.
Clinton pledged to restore balance to the NLRB. In his distinguished career, Gould has served as an arbitrator for nearly three decades, mediating more than 200 disputes between labor and management. Of about 140 cases in which he issued rulings, he sided with management roughly 54% of the time. If that’s not balance, I don’t know what is.
In a twist of language that would make George Orwell proud, five GOP senators, led by Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, used adjectives such as “radical” in a letter opposing Gould. I suppose if you’re used to management getting its way every time, then balance is a radical concept.
What Republicans are using as a ruse to block Gould’s nomination are a few out-of-context quotations from a book in which the nominee raises some sensible and wholly legitimate questions about current labor law. For example, Gould suggests that if a majority of workers at a job site sign union cards, that should be sufficient to win the right to bargain collectively with their employer--a provision on the lawbooks of virtually all of our major foreign competitors. Gould also notes his support for legislation to ban the permanent replacement of strikers, something that would be law today if not for a threatened GOP gridlock by filibuster.
These are suggestions supported by many reputable scholars and former secretaries of labor of varying political stripes. Republicans may disagree, but if they consider this radical, then they must view the entire concept of the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers as revolutionary.
Besides, Gould made crystal clear at his Senate confirmation hearing in October that he will be “concerned solely with the interpretation of the law as it is presently written . . . the fashioning of legislation (is not) part of the job description. That is the appropriate role for Congress.”
Gould’s record as an arbitrator certainly provides impeccable evidence of his ability to play an impartial and neutral role regardless of his personal views.
Beyond this, anyone who still argues that Gould would be in labor’s pocket is either ignorant of his record or disingenuously peddling a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. Early in his career, he made a name by writing about the difficulties African American workers faced in unions controlled by whites, which did not endear himself to many labor leaders at the time. More recently, he has supported labor-management committees, a position of some controversy within many unions. Gould told the Senate, “Workers ought to know more about the way in which the business they’re employed in operates. That’s the only way we can have good, constructive relationships and . . . the best way that American industry can be competitive.”
Gould said his top priority would be to expedite cases which today drag on forever. Other priorities include expanding informal dispute-resolution methods and reducing board polarization. This is radical?
The question now is, what will Clinton do? Will he let Gould dangle in the face of irresponsible right-wing attacks, or will he offer a ringing defense, as he did for Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders?
By strongly backing Gould, the President will ensure Senate confirmation and help mend post-NAFTA fences with labor at the same time. Most important, Clinton will do the right thing by a man who deserves nothing less.