Washington – The fight over President Obama’s five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is headed to the U.S. Senate floor after the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee voted last week to send the five to the full Senate. Now the question is, will Senate Republicans filibuster?
The nominees – three Democrats and two Republicans – must be confirmed before August, when the term of one of the current NLRB members ends and the board will be without a quorum and unable to function.
In a recent column in The Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote: “The NLRB is under unprecedented attack by extremist congressional Republicans and corporate lobbyists who want to weaken its power to protect workers who choose to organize and form unions on the job.”
The five nominees are current board members, Chairman Mark Pearce and members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin—and attorneys Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson, who represent management in labor-management relations.
A quick vote is important. The board now has three members: Pearce, Griffin and Block. Griffin and Block are “recess appointees” Obama named to the NLRB in January 2012 after Senate GOP filibusters defeated his permanent nominees. Pearce’s present term expires Aug. 27, after which the board will not have enough members to act.
The federal appeals court in D.C. ruled in January 2013 the recess appointments are illegal, and thus the board illegally decided 919 cases since January 2012.
WORKERS’ CASES IN LIMBO
Caught in the quarmire are workers like Illinois pressman Marcus Hedger.
Hedger, 56, worked as a pressman at a label-making plant run by the Fort Dearborn Company in Niles, Ill.
He was illegally fired in 2010 – and subsequently lost his home in Antioch, IL – for his union activities as a shop steward for the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters.
Last September, the full NLRB – two Democrats and one Republican, at the time – ruled he should get his job back with back pay.
But that has not happened yet – and Hedger lost his house in the meantime – because of the federal court ruling.
Because of its ruling on the status of current recess-appointed NLRB members, the same court put off action on the appeal of Hedger’s reinstatement by his employer.
“Almost three years later, I still don’t have my job back, even though the NLRB unanimously ruled I should get my job back,” Hedger said. “I am asking the United States Senate to do what is right … and to confirm the bipartisan package of nominees to the NLRB so that other workers can have their rights protected …. Companies shouldn’t be able to get away with firing somebody just because they stood up for their rights. That’s un-American. We need a functioning NLRB to protect us and our rights”
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
You can help influence the Senate’s decision by texting NLRB to 235246 to ask the Senate to confirm the board nominations now. (Standard message and data rates may apply.)
You also may call your senators at 1-888-264-6154.
(AFL-CIO Now and PAI News Service)
Second appeals court further limits President’s NLRB recess appointments
Philadelphia (PAI) – A second federal appeals court further limited Democratic President Barack Obama’s, or any president’s, power to make “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) when the Senate is out of session.
On May 16, a 2-judge majority of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled such appointments are illegal even when the Senate is in recess for several weeks during a session. The NLRB is considering how to appeal the court’s decision.
The judges used that rationale to throw out an NLRB ruling in 2011 ordering New Vista Nursing Home in Newark, N.J., to recognize and bargain with the Service Employees 1199 United Health Care Workers East. They said one of the three members of that NLRB, Craig Becker, was an illegal recess appointee, and without him the board lacked a quorum to rule on New Vista’s case.
The Philadelphia court’s New Vista ruling came down the morning the Senate Labor Committee held a confirmation hearing on five Obama NLRB nominees. The committee approved all five on May 22 (see separate story). The Philadelphia ruling builds on a decision the NLRB lost in January 2013, the Noel Canning case, in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court handles most cases involving federal agencies.
Both cases are important to workers because without three sitting members, the NLRB can’t function. Other courts have disagreed with the D.C. and Philadelphia courts on when the president can make “recess appointments.”