U.S. Labor Board Full for First Time Since 2007 as Senate Acts

The National Labor Relations Board reached its full five-member size for the first time since December 2007 after the U.S. Senate confirmed two of President Barack Obama’s nominees.

Brian Hayes, a Republican Senate aide, was confirmed by the Senate as it approved a package of almost 70 of Obama’s stalled nominees. The Senate also confirmed Mark Pearce, a Democrat Obama appointed to the board in March, for a full term.

The NLRB, which remedies unfair labor practices and certifies union elections, traditionally requires a majority of three to overturn controversial decisions. The board has three Democrats and two Republicans.

The NLRB operated for 27 months with two of its five seats filled, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that it needs at least three members to issue any decisions. The two members were one Democrat and one Republican, who said they didn’t act on divisive issues.

The term of the Republican, Peter Schaumber, expires in August.

In March, Obama bypassed the Senate confirmation process and appointed two Democrats to the board. One of those was Craig Becker, a lawyer for the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union.

Becker, opposed by Republicans and business groups for his ties to labor unions, wasn’t confirmed by the Senate today. That means he will serve on the board only until the end of 2011, less than the full five-year term.

March Appointments

Obama’s March appointments of Becker and Pearce provided the labor board with a quorum to clear a case backlog, including disputes with casino owner MGM Mirage and auto-parts maker Dana Holding Corp.

Business groups have raised concerns that a Democratic majority may push rule changes that would reduce the time between when organizers file to hold an employee election and the vote. Employers would have less opportunity to counter a unionization effort.

The NLRB this month began exploring electronic-voting methods for union elections, which business groups said could be used to skirt the current secret-ballot process to favor unions.

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