President Barack Obama announced on Jan. 4 that he will fill three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board.
By making “recess appointments,” Obama got around roadblocks thrown up by Senate Republicans, who had vowed to block all of his appointments to the board that oversees union elections.
Last month the board fell to just two members, rendering it incapable of action because its decisions require a majority of three.
Among other things, the independent agency oversees union elections and investigates suspected unfair labor practices. For example, the NLRB is overseeing the Jan. 25-26 union representation election at Calpine in northern California, where employees are seeking representation by IBEW Local 1245.
Obama’s appointments bring the five-member board to full strength for the first time in nearly two years. The new members are attorneys Sharon Block, Richard Griffin and Terence Flynn. Block is a senior Labor Department official and Griffin is a labor attorney and a former NLRB counsel. Both are Democrats. Flynn is currently counsel to the NLRB’s lone Republican, Brian Hayes.
Also on Jan. 4, Obama used a recess appointment to name Richard Cordray to head the country’s new consumer financial watchdog.
“The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day – whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans,” Obama said in a statement.
The labor movement community praised Obama’s move.
“We commend the president for exercising his constitutional authority to ensure that crucially important agencies protecting workers and consumers are not shut down by Republican obstructionism,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.