Policy: Labor

NLRB nominee’s union gave nearly
$1 million to lawmakers in June

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Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Campaign Finance,NLRB,Analysis

Congressional lawmakers received $905,000 in campaign contributions from the International Union of Operating Engineers just last month. The IUOE  is the same union that employed Richard Griffin as its top attorney prior to his 2012 recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board.

The donations show the intense level of lobbying Big Labor engaged in to get Griffin’s re-nomination — as well as the nominations of four others for the NLRB — through the Senate.

It ultimately prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to threaten to end the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule.

The nearly one million dollars also helps to explain why – even after Democrats were forced to drop Griffin’s nomination — the White House is expected to name Griffin as the NLRB’s new general counsel.

The move is clearly a consolation prize to Griffin and the IUOE. And a heck of a prize it is, since general counsel is one of  the NLRB’s most important and high-profile positions. Some labor leaders had complained bitterly about Tuesday’s deal, saying Griffin deserved better.

The donations were first reported in Roll Call. IUOE made 251 contributions to lawmakers. Most were either $2,500 or $5,000. The recipients were not disclosed.

The NLRB is the quasi-independent federal agency that oversees labor/management relations. The five-member board is nominally independent, but the White House nominates the members. The minority party gets to pick two of the five, but a three-vote majority rules in all NLRB cases.

Griffin was nominated by President Obama to the NLRB along with Block and a third nominee, Terrence Flynn, in December 2011. Just three weeks later the three were put on the board through recess nominations.

Contrary to some reports, their nominations were never filibustered. The Senate never even had time to hold hearings on them. Obama simply decided to ignore the Senate and the Constitution’s balance of powers doctrine and unilaterally appoint the three.

In January, an appeals court ruled Griffin and Block’s recess appointments were unconstitutional. Two other courts have since made similar rulings.

That not only denied the NLRB a functioning quorum, it potentially invalidated much of the NLRB’s actions since the appointments.

Obama then renominated Griffin and Block (Flynn had since dropped out) and three others to the NLRB: current chairman Mark Pearce and two Republicans, Harry Johnson and Robert Miscimarra.

Republicans balked at Griffin and Block, arguing their recess appointments taited them.

Big Labor then aggressively pushed Democrats to get the five through the Senate by any means possible. Unions were upset the NLRB had essentially ceased to function.

As part of a deal reached Tuesday, Griffin and Block were dropped by the White House. They will be replaced by two other choices approved by the AFL-CIO: Nancy Schiffer, a top AFL-CIO lawyer, and Kent Hirozawa, chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce.

That seemingly left Griffin out of a job, but the Huffington Post reported Thursday that Griffin will become the NLRB’s new general counsel.

The general counsel position requires Senate confirmation as well, though the current one, Lafe Solomon, has been serving without confirmation for three years now. The president can simply designate an acting general counsel.

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