Even as the Bush administration is erasing reforms--like ergonomics
regulations aimed at preventing workplace injuries--it has desperately
claimed to be moderate on labor issues. "The president is restoring
the balance and the middle ground," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
Such rhetoric will continue to defy reality if Bush nominates J.
Robert Brame to head the National
Labor Relations Board. Brame, who served on the five-person
board between 1997 and 2000 as a result of deals between the Clinton
administration and staunch conservatives in the Senate, made his
name as a dissenting voice whose quirky, sweeping opinions raised
eyebrows. Now they are raising red flags. No mere management ally,
Brame is a standard-bearer for the religious right whose ties to
the obscure Christian reconstructionist movement reveal an ardent
foe of regulations protecting worker safety and labor unions' place
In addition to his work on labor law, Brame serves on the board
of American Vision,
a Christian reconstructionist group whose mission is "the restoration
of America's biblical foundation." Many reconstructionists interpret
the Old Testament as prescribing minimal and very rigid forms of
government, with churches playing key roles and workers groups playing
none. The head of American Vision's board of directors is Gary DeMar,
who has advocated killing homosexuals and capital punishment for
abortion providers. As longtime religious-right observer Fred Clarkson
has written of reconstructionists, "They would eliminate not only
democracy, but also many of its manifestations, such as labor unions,
civil rights laws and public schools."
Far more than a hobby, Brame's reconstructionist sympathies are
at the heart of his approach to questions of authority in the workplace.
During his two-and-a-half-year stint on the NLRB, Brame penned strident
dissents with a penchant for setting aside precedent and straitjacketing
the right to unionize. There was almost no form of employer coercion
that Brame didn't deem a legitimate form of "free speech."