President Barack Obama must send the Senate a full slate of National Labor Relations Board members for confirmation, and not just the two Democrats he offered today, top lawmakers in Congress said.
Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, the nominees, were January 2012 appointees whose positions were declared invalid by a U.S. court last month. Republican Terence Flynn quit in July and Brian Hayes’s term ended in December, leaving Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce as the only NLRB member confirmed by the Senate. The board needs three members for a quorum.
“The president should promptly send two Republican nominees, respecting the tradition of a bipartisan NLRB,” said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, senior Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that will considers Block and Griffin. “In the meantime, while the Senate considers their nominations, these two individuals should leave the board” because of the court decision, he said.
The labor board’s 200 rulings since Block and Griffin took their seats are clouded after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Obama violated the Constitution by making a recess appointment when the Senate wasn’t in a recess. The Obama administration and the labor board said the court’s decision applied only to a single case, and prior decisions were unaffected.
“I am pleased to see President Obama acting to strengthen” the board, Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Health and Labor committee, said in an e-mail. “I hope that the president will also move quickly to renominate Chairman Pearce and announce nominees for the two Republican seats on the NLRB, so that the board can continue its important work without interruption.”
In the House, which doesn’t play a role in the confirmation process, Republican leaders urged Obama to work with the Senate to fill all vacant positions.
“Until a constitutionally appointed Board is seated, uncertainty will reign in labor-management relations,” according to a letter to Obama signed by House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Republican Conference head Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, and Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe.
The letter didn’t mention today’s nominations.
Block, a former U.S. Labor Department official, and Griffin, former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, drew criticism from a business group.
The NLRB nominations “demonstrates once again that payback to big labor bosses is a top priority in this White House,” Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business owners group, said in an e-mail. “Both Griffin and Block continue to issue decisions considered illicit by the D.C. Circuit Court because they are not lawfully on the board.”
Republicans hailed the Jan. 25 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington and called on the board to stop making decisions. The unanimous ruling may upend decisions involving companies such as DISH Network Corp., Station Casinos LLC and Gannett Co. on a range of issues related to negotiations over contract terms, access to the workplace when employees are off duty and whether union dues can be deducted from paychecks after collective bargaining agreements expire.
“I’m naively hopeful that bipartisanship is going to eventually emerge and Obama could make a deal with Republicans,” Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, Carr professor of labor and employment law at Indiana University in Bloomington, said in an interview. “Maybe the election results will change their attitude but short of that, there’s nothing that’s going to force them to be more cooperative.”
The court ruling may also be used to challenge regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose director, Richard Cordray, was named at the same time as the board members. The White House said the ruling won’t affect Cordray and was limited to the company that challenged the NLRB’s decision in court. Cordray also was nominated today by Obama.