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White House nominates three to labor board

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

The White House officially nominated Mark Gaston Pearce, Harry I. Johnson and Philip A. Miscimarra to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. Pearce is the current chairman of the NLRB, the other two would be new to the board.

The White House’s statement indicates both Johnson and Miscimarra are Republicans, though it doesn’t explicitly say so. Jen Costa, a spokeswoman for Miscimarra’s firm, Morgan Lewis, said she didn’t know his political affiliation. His official company bio states he has represented the Chamber of Commerce and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in litigation. (UPDATE: Costa said Miscimarra confirmed he is a Republican.)

Johnson’s company bio also says he represents business groups. A spokeswoman said he company would be putting out a statement today.

In a statement, President Obama said:

I am pleased to nominate these individuals to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. By enforcing workplace protections, upholding the rights of workers and providing a stable workplace environment for businesses, the NLRB plays a vital role in our efforts to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class.  With these nominations there will be five nominees to the NLRB, both Republicans and Democrats, awaiting Senate confirmation. I urge the Senate to confirm them swiftly so that this bipartisan board can continue its important work on behalf of the American people.

The other nominees Obama is referring to are Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, who were placed there last year by recess appointment and are currently serving on the board despite disputes over whether they were legally installed.

The nominations are an apparent attempt to ensure that the NLRB has a valid quorum to act, a problem that has plagued it repeatedly in recent years. By nominating a full slate of Republicans and Democrats, the White House is trying to put pressure on Senate Republicans not to filibuster them.

Johnson and Miscimarra are not high profile figures in Washington. “Based on five minutes of Google-searching them, they look like good candidates for the NLRB,” Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the business-backed Workforce Fairness Institute, told me.

He added: “It might have been hard for the administration to find Republicans willing to go through the nomination process.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, issued the following statement to reporters via email:

President Obama, with the nominations announced today, has taken an important step toward restoring stability to our system of labor-management relations, which has been in disarray since the DC Circuit’s decision in the Noel Canning case. For America’s workers, businesses and the promotion of healthy commerce, putting forward a full, bi-partisan package of nominees to the NLRB is the right thing to do.

The package includes individuals who have challenged recent actions by the NLRB and who have views on labor relations matters that we do not agree with. But working people need and deserve a functioning NLRB, and confirmation of a full package will provide that stability. The labor movement understands that when the NLRB is not at full strength and cannot enforce its orders, America’s economy falls out of balance, as it is today with record inequality and a shrinking middle class. We urge members of the Senate to act quickly and confirm the President’s full slate of nominees.

The NLRB has had difficulty acting ever since an appeals court ruled that the recess appointees President Obama made to it last year were unconstitutional. The president had installed Block and Griffin just three weeks after their mid-December nomination. Senate Republicans had not filibustered them. The Senate had even had a chance to schedule hearings.

The court’s ruling meant the NLRB has not had a legal quorum to act in almost 15 months. The NLRB has tried to ignore the court’s ruling, but court challenges to its actions by Big Business have forced it to ask the Supreme Court to resolve the issue. Assuming the court takes up the case, a ruling likely won’t come until October at the earliest.

 

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