President Barack Obama recently announced that he intends to nominate Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).
Block and Griffin (both lawyers) have significant experience working to advance organized labor policies. Block is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor. She was previously a senior labor counsel for the Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee and worked for Senator Edward Kennedy during that time. Block also served at the NLRB as an attorney. Griffin is the general counsel for the International Union of Operating Affairs, and he is a member of the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.
The Board is currently comprised of two Democrats and a Republican, with its other two seats unfilled. The board’s membership will soon decrease to two when Craig Becker’s term expires at the end of this year. Becker is a Democrat who previously worked for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employee International Union. With only two members on the board, the NLRB would be unable to reach its three-member quorum requirement and would be prevented from rendering case decisions or issuing new rules.
Despite the possibility of an idle board, Democrats will face difficulty in obtaining the necessary votes to secure the nominees’ confirmation. Democrats maintain a slight edge in the Senate, but they are bound to confront strong resistance from the Republicans on the nominations because of the NLRB’s recent action against Boeing. Boeing opened a non-union plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, that was projected to create a significant number of jobs for the surrounding area. The NLRB brought a lawsuit against Boeing arguing that Boeing relocated its aircraft assembly lines out of Washington state in retaliation to union disputes that disrupted production of its 787 planes. The NLRB recently dropped its action, but Representative Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has stated that he will continue an investigation into the NLRB’s handling of its lawsuit against Boeing.
A previous Republican nominee, Terrence Flynn, is still awaiting Senate confirmation. Block and Griffin’s confirmation may hinge on a Senate compromise to seat all three nominees. Without bipartisan approval, it is unclear whether any nominees will be confirmed by the end of the year, leaving the NLRB procedurally powerless.