As part of the newly-announced deal to avoid changes to the Senate rules, President Obama has reportedly named Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa as National Labor Relations Board nominees to replace recess appointees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, whose nominations have been withdrawn. According to an article in Politico, the President selected Schiffer and Hirozawa after conferring with AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka. Politico also reports that part of the Senate deal includes a guaranteed vote on a nominee slot that will open on the Board in 2014.
As part of this deal, the Senate would take votes on the remaining Board nominees, Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and Republican nominees Harry I. Johnson, III and Philip A. Miscimarra. The deal also clears the way for approval of Thomas Perez’s nomination for Labor Secretary.
As expected, the two new Board nominees have spent much of their professional lives advocating on behalf of unions and employees. As counsel for the AFL-CIO, Schiffer in 2007 testified in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. Her written testimony: "Strengthening America's Middle Class Through the Employee Free Choice Act" states:
The Employee Free Choice Act would reform the NLRA so that workers can choose union representation and collective bargaining without fear and intimidation. When a majority of workers demonstrate their choice to form a union their representative can be certified by the NLRB without the need for the delay-ridden, coercive and divisive NLRB election process. Federal labor law would finally, and again, assure that workers who want collective bargaining are able to have it. And it would guarantee that collective bargaining would be conducted effectively and efficiently and would result in a contract. Finally, it would create real penalties as a deterrent to unlawful employer conduct. We urge your support of the Employee Free Choice Act.
In addition, during the 2012 American Bar Association midwinter meeting, Schiffer presented a paper: Congressional Review of the National Labor Relations Board: Oversight or Over-the-Top? in which she lists and discusses “unprecedented attacks on the National Labor Relations Board, it Members, its Acting General Counsel, and even its staff.”
Hirozawa has served as Pearce’s chief counsel since 2010. He had worked for the Board earlier in his career as a Region 2 field attorney. Hirozawa also spent more than two decades in private practice representing unions, workers and employee benefit funds.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has scheduled a hearing on these nominations for next Tuesday, July 23 at 10:00 a.m. ET. The committee is expected to vote on the nominees next Wednesday, followed by full Senate consideration as early as next Thursday.
The deal removes obstacles to the NLRB proceeding with its aggressive pro-labor agenda. A fully functioning Board is poised to make sweeping changes, including issuing more expansive “quickie” or “ambush” election rules than those currently stayed. While the nomination of Perez as Labor Secretary has not garnered as much attention as those of the NLRB members, the new Secretary of Labor is expected to proceed with the DOL’s far-reaching regulatory agenda. With the deal to avert the nuclear option, employers should prepare for even more dramatic changes ahead.