The U.S. Senate has confirmed a full lineup of five National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nominees, ending a long-running stalemate between the White House and Congress over the board's composition.
The series of Senate votes on July 30 on the nominees ensures that the board will have a full complement for the first time in a decade. The NLRB decides cases that directly affect employers and unions, including those in the construction industry. In recent years, the board has ruled on such issues as union members' rights to display banners criticizing labor practices of contractors working at construction sites.
The Senate vote was part of a deal brokered among the White House, leading Democrats and top Republicans. Under the agreement, President Obama withdrew two controversial recess appointees to the board, Democrats Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, whom Obama had re-nominated for full terms, in exchange for swift Senate approval of a new slate of candidates.
The three just-confirmed Democrats are Mark Gaston Pearce, the current NLRB chairman; Nancy Jean Schiffer, former AFL-CIO associate general counsel; and Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa, Pearce's former chief counsel.
The two Republicans, approved by voice vote, are Harry Johnson III, a partner in the Los Angeles office of the Arent Fox law firm; and Philip Andrew Miscimarra, a partner in the Chicago office of the Morgan Lewis law firm.
Shortly after the vote, Pearce said in a statement that the confirmations “will revitalize our commitment to protect the rights of American employers and employees under the National Labor Relations Act…" He added, "Employers and employees alike are guaranteed protection from unfair labor practices. Employers and employees alike have an impartial forum for the resolution of disputes. ”
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said, “The time has come to start a new chapter for the NLRB. It’s time to ratchet down the political rhetoric that has recently haunted this agency, and let the dedicated public servants who work there do their jobs.”
But the HELP Committee’s ranking Republican, Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), said in a July 30 statement that he still has reservations about the two new Democratic board members, Schiffer and Hirozawa. Alexander said, “The problem is I’m not persuaded—and I hope I will be proven wrong—that they’re able to transfer their positions of advocacy to positions of judge, that they can be impartial when employers come before them.”
Still hanging over the NLRB is a pending court challenge to decisions the board made during the tenure of Block and Griffin. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments late this year in a case that deals with the constitutionality of the two board members' recess appointments.