Today President Obama announced a series of recess appointments, including – count ‘em – two seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Both appointees, Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, are Democrats nominees. A third nominee, Brian Hayes, a staffer for Senator Mike Enzi, was left behind to be voted on by the Senate.
The NLRB is the federal agency that oversees the laws relating to union organizing, and for more than two years, the NLRB has had just two of its five members. Those two members – one Democrat, one Republican – have had to set aside hundreds of cases on which they could not agree in anticipation of at least a third member. On the cases the two NLRB members have decided, anti-worker advocates contested the validity of those decisions all the way up to the Supreme Court this week. While discussing the extended NLRB vacancies, Chief Justice Roberts asked, “And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?”
Obama finally wondered the same thing and put Becker and Pearce on the NLRB. I had worried about a recess appointment of just Becker, as the Republicans could have easily held up Pearce for revenge. So it’s good to see Obama take AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s advice and appoint both Democratic nominees.
Now, the problem is that the appointments of Becker and Pearce will only last until the end of this Senate session – the end of 2010 – as opposed to the normal four years of an NLRB term. That means in the next session of Congress, with fewer Democratic Senate seats, there’s going to be yet another fight to staff the NLRB. And there’s no expectation Republicans will think about lifting a finger to make sure the NLRB can function. I wrote this right before Becker’s nomination was returned by the Senate:
In a broader context, Becker is the latest front in the right’s fight against any person or policy considered remotely pro-worker. As with DeMint’s victory over possibly pro-worker TSA nominee Erroll Southers, the fight over Becker shows the extent to which the corporations and their Members of Congress bring out the big guns for any possible advancement of the middle class and workers’ rights. By chipping away at the core of the labor movement, the right erodes the very base of the Democratic Party. It’s a direct hit: labor unions mean boots on the ground for candidates, money for ads, and more. And each time the right picks a fight with Becker, Southers, or the Employee Free Choice Act, both corporations and the right directly benefit from one fewer chance for workers to exercise their rights and one fewer chance for the labor movement to represent the interests of the middle class. Craig Becker needs to be confirmed to the NLRB, if only to ease the bleeding of representation for working people in our government.
This is a fight that will never end. But for the time being, the National Labor Relations Board can get to work – with a 3-1 Democratic majority. It will be a better remainder of 2010 for workers.
UPDATE: Thanks for Kirk and others in the comments; I believe that Becker and Pearce will serve to the end of the next session of Congress, ending in December 2011. So a good year and a half or so for workers is ahead.