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Scariest People of 2016: No. 6-Lafe Solomon

By   /   December 28, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 5 of 10 in the series Scariest People of 2016

2016 might go down as one of the most unusual years in the history of American politics. Voters chose historic change, but in all too many ways, it was business as usual.

Too many bureaucrats still put their own interests over the interests of the people they were supposed to be serving. Too many officials – elected and unelected – continued to act more like petty tyrants than servants of the people, imposing their own vision of how others should live their lives on citizens perfectly capable of making those decisions for themselves. 

This week we’ll highlight the scariest examples by shining a light on those who seem to think your liberty is less important than their power.

Here’s No. 6.

A man who lodged thousands of labor complaints while serving as acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board — a possibly illegal appointment — had a new job in 2016 that would have been a lot scarier for America’s job creators and working families.

Lafe Solomon is the DOL senior labor compliance adviser in charge of implementing the 2014 “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” presidential executive order known as the “Blacklisting Rule.”

DOL Senior Labor Compliance Advisor Lafe Solomon will implement "blacklisting" executive order

DOL Senior Labor Compliance Adviser Lafe Solomon

As “Blacklisting Czar,” Solomon could suspend or reject work for virtually any of the 24,000 federal contractors based on the flimsiest labor-related accusations.

Patrick Semmens of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation called the rule a huge power grab, and a tool for unions to use as leverage against companies. “And I don’t think Solomon should be in a position to administer any rule. Frankly, if you look at his track record at the NLRB … it raises about as many red flags as you can raise.”

One red flag includes an NLRB complaint against Walmart that resulted in charges of ethics violations and  conflict of interest because Solomon owned Walmart stock. (Charges were never pursued.)

A more sinister complaint against Boeing over plans to build a facility in right-to-work South Carolina ignited a national firestorm over the relatively unchecked power of political appointees to pressure businesses to adopt pro-union policies.

And Solomon may have held the job illegally from the get-go. The U.S. Supreme Court in June will decide whether his appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 — an act that prohibits appointees from serving, even temporarily, while they are nominees.

While his former job may have been a legal farce, his current one is certainly suspect.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on the blacklisting rule in November, and Congress intends to strip funding for the rule’s implementation for the second straight year.  Federal rules on “noncareer appointments” such as Solomon’s allow removal by the appointing authority — (e.g., for loss of confidence or change in policy.) For now though, with no rule in place, Solomon and his $181,000 yearly salary are still on the Labor Department books.

Part of 10 in the series Scariest People of 2016

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Kathy Hoekstra is the regulatory policy reporter for Watchdog.org. Before joining Watchdog, she was a senior communications manager and Michigan state director for Job Creators Network, an advocacy organization that focuses on employee education. She has also been a TV news reporter and anchor, a contributor to the Detroit News and occasional guest-host for Frank Beckmann on WJR Radio in Detroit, and was an investigative reporter for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. She lives in Michigan and is a member of the Investigative Reporters & Editors network. ​Connect on Twitter @khoekstra or by email at khoekstra@watchdog.org​.