The National Labor Relations Board is one step closer to operating with a full complement of members. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) voted 13-9 largely along party lines to send the nominations of Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa and Nancy Jean Schiffer to the full Senate for confirmation. Yesterday, the Committee held a hearing to consider these two Board nominees, who were picked to replace outgoing recess appointees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. 

Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) noted that it has been 10 years since the Board has operated with a full slate of members and said it was “about time” the Board was restored to its full strength and capacity.

Ranking member Lamar Alexander (R-RN) said that his primary concern is the ability of the nominees “to set aside their pro-union advocacy past and act as neutral arbiters.” He asked, “will they be judges and not advocates?” He mentioned that following yesterday’s hearing, his “concerns have not been lessened.”

Schiffer is the former Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO and Hirozawa is Chief Counsel to Board Chairman Mark Pearce. Alexander commented that he could not name any past NLRB nominees who went straight to the Board after working for a union. Although former members Craig Becker and Richard Griffin became members after doing so, both were recess appointees whose nominations were never confirmed.

For these reasons, Alexander said he would not vote to report their nominations favorably to the Senate floor, but would not act to delay their consideration by the full Senate.

In response, Sen. Harkin mentioned that when Republican nominees Harry I. Johnson, III and Philip A. Miscimarra were considered by the Senate panel, he did not ask them to set aside their “pro-business, anti-union views,” and instead voted to advance their nominations.

After the vote was taken, Harkin said that the Committee would need some time to review the candidates’ responses to written questions, and expected that the full Senate would vote on all five Board nominees sometime next week in keeping with the agreement to avoid the “nuclear option”.