Obama Uses Recess Appointments To Keep NLRB Alive

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In an important move for the rights of American workers, President Barack Obama used recess appointments to seat three new members on the National Labor Relations Board, overcoming Republican obstruction to make sure the Board can continue to operate. Without the appointments, the Board would've fallen below the minimum number of members necessary to maintain a quorum and would've been unable to take any action. Senate Republicans refused to approve any new members to the Board in an attempt to prevent it from doing anything to protect American workers. The new appointees are Department of Labor Attorney Sharon Block, labor lawyer Richard Griffin, and NLRB counsel Terence Flynn.

Like the CFPB, Republicans have spent the past year blocking nominations to the NLRB in an effort to keep the agency from functioning. Those efforts would have paid off soon, since after Craig Becker’s term on the board expired this week, the NLRB would have been reduced to two members, which is the number it had for more than two years from 2008 to 2010. This effectively shuts down the board, since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that two members does not constitute a legal quorum, and thus, a two-member board can’t make binding rulings.

All 47 Senate Republicans have warned Obama of a “constitutional conflict” should he choose to use his recess appointment powers — authority he is well within his right to use, as ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser noted yesterday — but it was Chief Justice John Roberts, a noted conservative, who suggested the president should make recess appointments to keep the NLRB functioning, as ThinkProgress reported in 2010.

Obama’s appointment of Block, Flynn, and Griffin is important, too, because it boosts the board’s membership to five, protecting its quorum even if member Brian Hayes follows through on his threats to quit. Preserving its right to quorum ensures that its rulings will not be thrown out on legal challenges, as more than 600 cases were by the Roberts Court in 2010.

The Board is vital in protecting the rights of American workers:

Having a functioning body, able to enforce laws protecting workers, isn’t just about workers in unions. It matters to all workers. The right to bargain, and the NLRB that protects it, have been frequent targets of congressional Republicans. Through the use of the filibuster, the minority of Republicans in the Senate—without passing any new laws—could essentially have demolished labor law and made collective bargaining in this country nearly impossible.


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