Monday, March 29, 2010

Obama makes NLRB recess appointments, gives board quorum

President Obama announced Friday he would appoint 15 high-ranking administration appointees now awaiting Senate confirmation through recess appointments, including two positions on the National Labor Relations Board.

The president said he plans to use his constitutional authority to seat Craig Becker, a former union lawyer, and Mark Pearce, also a former union lawyer, to the labor board while Congress is on Spring recess.

The NLRB has been operating with two of five board members since January 2008, which has raised legal questions as to whether the board could issue rulings without a quorum of three sitting members. Last year, the two-member board--one Democrat and one Republican--was instructed to hold off on any rulings until the quorum issue was decided. The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on the issue.

Sitting NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman, who has served on the board for 12 years, welcomed the new members saying, “I look forward to beginning work with them, and especially to addressing cases that have been pending for a long time.”

One of these cases is the Press-Telegram settlement with the Guild over layoffs and illegal transfers to the Daily Breeze. The settlement, which has been approved by both the Guild and the Press-Telegram, as well as the regional NLRB office, remains on the desk of the NLRB in Washington, D.C., awaiting a sign off from the board.

The Obama administration said it was forced to make the recess appointments because GOP obstructionism has created a backlog of 77 high-level Obama appointees awaiting Senate approval.

"Regrettably, Senate Republicans have dedicated themselves to a failed strategy to cripple President Obama's economic initiatives by stalling key administration nominees at every turn," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

By comparison, at this point in the George W. Bush administration, there remained only five high-level appointments left to be appointed. Democratic leaders in the Congress also pointed out that by this period in his first term, Bush had made 15 recess appointments and ultimately made 171 during his two terms in office.

Becker's appointment has draw severe criticism from many Congressional Republicans, who have said they believe that his pro-union background and disposition will lead to NLRB rulings that make it easier for employees to unionize. A previous Senate confirmation vote on Becker fell shy of the required votes when two Democratic Senators joined with Senate Republicans to deny Obama the needed 60 votes for confirmation.

Democrats and labor organizations cheered the president's decision to use his recess appointment authority.

"When jobs are scarce, workers are often forced to endure unfair working conditions," Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director for American Rights at Work told CNN. "America's workers need a fully functioning NLRB to mediate their claims for better wages, benefits and other rights now more than ever - and after two long years they have one."

No comments: