If the Republicans in Congress thought Craig Becker was too pro-union before, just wait till they see him now. The AFL-CIO Tuesday named Becker its co-general counsel, and that’s about as pro-union as you can be. Becker, a strong litigator who has argued labor and employment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and in nearly every federal court of appeals, will join longtime AFL-CIO general counsel Lynn Rhinehart on July 1. The new co-GC is a former embattled member of the National Labor Relations Board and currently is a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Becker said no decisions have been made yet on how he and Rhinehart will divide up their duties. “But it’s a challenging time,” he said, “and I’m sure two heads will be better than one.” Asked if he would become involved with NLRB issues now before the courts, Becker said he has to analyze the two-year ethical restrictions placed on former board members. He knows they bar him, for example, from appearing personally before the board or from trying to influence board members, but he wasn’t sure about court appearances. What he can do is offer his depth of experience to the federation. “I bring a lot of different perspectives,” Becker said. “I’ve represented a number of different unions, both public and private, I’ve been an academic at three different law schools, and I’ve worked in public service. Hopefully, that combination will bring something to the AFL-CIO.” Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, said in a prepared statement, “Craig Becker is a brilliant lawyer and creative thinker with deep experience in labor law, litigation, and organizing; his combination of legal acumen and experience on the ground is simply unmatched.” Trumka continued: “The strengths of these two extraordinary lawyers, Becker and Rhinehart, are a perfect complement, and together they will lead a powerhouse legal program to protect and promote the interests of working men and women.” In the statement, Rhinehart said she was “really excited” about working with Becker. “He’s a person of incredible intellect, experience and integrity, and with his leadership, we will be able to expand our work in crucially important areas at a crucially important time,” she said. President Barack Obama nominated Becker to the NLRB, but Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to confirm him, calling him too liberal and too pro-union. Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who placed a “hold” on Becker’s nomination, said in a letter to the Senate Labor Committee that Becker was “probably the most controversial nominee that I have seen in a long time.” Obama subsequently used a temporary recess appointment in March 2010, which allowed Becker to serve on the board through December 2011. While on the NLRB, Becker supported two controversial policies that the business community opposed. One required employers to post notices on their bulletin boards explaining employees’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively, while the other set up new rules to speed up union elections. But both policies ran into trouble in the courts. Last month, a federal appeals court suspended the notice requirement, and last week the NLRB temporarily suspended its new election rules after another federal judge said the board improperly adopted the rules without a quorum. Previously, Becker served as associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale College and received his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was a law journal editor. His co-GC, Rhinehart, joined the AFL-CIO in 1996 as associate general counsel. She was named general counsel by Trumka in October 2009. She previously worked on the staff of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor. Both Rhinehart and Becker have written extensively on labor issues. In fact, Senate Republicans cited some of Becker’s pro-labor writings in blocking his NLRB nomination. The Washington, D.C.-based AFL-CIO—formally the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations—is an umbrella federation representing some 56 unions, ranging from the Air Line Pilots Association to the Writers Guild of America, East Inc.
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