The More You Learn, The Less You'll Like: Nominee is Bad News For Obama Labor Board

Hector Barreto
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Posted: Jun 11, 2013 7:00 PM
The More You Learn, The Less You'll Like: Nominee is Bad News For Obama Labor Board

Last week, we learned a little more about President Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). We started the week knowing that Richard Griffin is a defendant in an embezzlement and racketeering lawsuit. He is named in the portion of the suit dealing with a cover up.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Griffin is named in a federal complaint filed in October by 10 members of IUOE Local 501, out of Los Angeles, which describes a ‘scheme to defraud [the local] out of revenue, cost savings and membership,’ by means of kickbacks, bribery, violent threats and extortion. The suit names dozens of IUOE officials as defendants, and Mr. Griffin is highlighted in a section describing an embezzlement and its subsequent hush-up.”

The Washington Free Beacon reports, “According to the lawsuit filed by 10 members of Los Angeles-based IUOE Local 501, which represents workers in Southern California and Southern Nevada, Griffin participated in a conspiracy to manipulate the operation of Local 501 ‘through a pattern of racketeering activity.’ Griffin was served with the complaint and a court summons relating to the lawsuit at his Washington, D.C., home on Dec. 4, according to documents filed in court.”

We also know Griffin was general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). As such, he was a boss in an organization that was compromised by its relationships with organized crime.

According to Fox News, “[t]he rap sheet for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers reads like something out of Goodfellas. Embezzlement. Wire fraud. Bribery. That’s just scratching the surface of crimes committed by the IUOE ranks.”

“Public documents…show that more than 60 IUOE members have been arrested, indicted or jailed in the last decade on charges that include labor racketeering, extortion, criminal enterprise, bodily harm and workplace sabotage.”

“In some of the more egregious examples, federal prosecutors alleged in February 2003 that the Genovese and Colombo crime families wrested control of two IUOE locals, and stole $3.6 million from major New York area construction projects – including the Museum of Modern Art and minor league baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets in Staten and Coney Islands.”

And that brings us to this week’s news. We learned that Griffin’s IUOE has a history of racial discrimination. For example, a Philadelphia chapter of the union (Local 542) violated discrimination law nearly 20 times in the area of pay and work opportunities. The key data point is that much of it occurred while Griffin was the labor organization’s chief legal officer.

The Washington Free Beacon reports, “[t]he union has battled against its reputation for discrimination in other instances. In December 2007, an IUOE member working at the Port of Portland was suspended for 20 days without pay because he had hung a noose in his workplace. The union defended the man, arguing that he was unaware of the noose’s racial implications.”

“IUOE locals and the construction industry have a long history of troubling racial discrimination, according to Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. ‘There is indeed racism in the construction trades, especially steel workers, pipefitters, and equipment operators,’ he said. ‘There’s definitely a legacy of discrimination.’”

All of this evidence against Griffin is on top of the fact that he ignored a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – which has jurisdiction over the Board – concerning his unconstitutional recess appointment by President Obama in January 2012.

These developments should disqualify Griffin, considering the NLRB's role as a taxpayer-funded referee deciding matters between businesses and unions in the private sector. It is of particular concern to employers struggling in a difficult economic environment, many of whom are ethnic minorities.

Any reasonable assessment of the collective information should lead U.S. Senators to oppose Griffin’s confirmation to the National Labor Relations Board.