Born on November 14, 1956, Harold Craig Becker graduated from Yale University in 1978 and from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, in 1981. From 1981-83 Becker clerked for Donald Lay, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. From 1983-89 he worked for the Washington, DC-based law firm Kirschner, Weinberg & Dempsey. Becker thereafter taught at UCLA Law School (1989–1994), Georgetown University Georgetown University Law School (1987–1988), and the University of Chicago Law School. Over the course of his legal career, he has argued cases in many venues, including the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2009, when he was an associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), he was appointed to the transition team for newly elected President Barack Obama, assisting with the incoming administration’s review of the Labor Department.
Becker advocates an authoritarian version of syndicalism in which no employee would have the right not to join a labor union. Says Becker: “Just as U.S. citizens cannot opt against having a congressman, workers should not be able to choose against having a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent.” Asserting that business owners have “no legally cognizable interest” in their workers’ decisions vis a vis unionization, Becker writes that employers should be barred from NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] proceedings: “On these latter issues employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case, even though Board rulings might indirectly affect their duty to bargain.”
Moreover, Becker would even deny employers the right to alert authorities to illegal union efforts to influence the outcome of a vote regarding the unionization of a workplace:
“[E]mployers should have no right to raise questions concerning voter eligibility or campaign conduct. Because employers have no right to vote, they cast no ballots the significance of which can be diluted by the inclusion of ineligible employees.… Because employers lack the formal status either of candidates vying to represent employees or voters, they should not be entitled to charge that unions disobeyed the rules governing voter eligibility or campaign conduct. On the questions of unit determination, voter eligibility, and campaign conduct, only the employee constituency and their potential union representatives should be heard.”
Becker supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a measure that would deprive workers of the right to vote for or against the unionization of their workforce by means of a secret ballot.
Becker is believed to have played a role in drafting an SEIU manual that explained how union organizers could intimidate businesses into taking away the secret ballot from workers. This “Contract Campaign Manual” originally surfaced during a racketeering lawsuit filed against SEIU by the food-and-facilities management company Sodexo Inc., which accused the union of running an “illegal campaign of extortion.” Specifically, the manual tells union members how to undermine the reputation of a business and its management. It urges union members to join forces with community organizations and publicly reveal damaging personal information on individual managers, so as to weaken their bargaining position in contract negotiations.
In one of his more controversial initiatives, Becker worked with Chicago SEIU Local 880 on the issue of organizing home health-care workers in Illinois. Six days after the union had donated $200,000 to then-Governor Rod Blagojevich, the latter signed a law that nearly doubled the Local’s membership and tripled its income (from $7 million to $21 million). At the same time, SEIU Local 880 was funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in union dues to front groups for the community organization ACORN.
On March 27, 2010, President Obama made a recess appointment of Becker to the NLRB. The President’s action enabled Becker to serve on the Board for a limited period of time without Senate confirmation. On January 26, 2011, Obama renominated Becker to the same seat, for a term that was slated to expire in December 2014.
At Becker’s nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator John McCain asked the nominee: “Do you perform work for and provide advice to ACORN or ACORN-affiliated groups while employed by your current employers or on a volunteer basis?” Becker responded, “Senator McCain, I have never done so.” But that answer was patently untrue. Becker indeed gave advice to SEIU Local 880 in Illinois, which was part and parcel of ACORN, before it merged with another SEIU bargaining unit.