And though he expects all five to be confirmed, Harkin also expects the votes to be one by one, rather than as a group. “The Republicans will want to do them one by one, to give themselves a chance to again say how the NLRB is detrimental to the country,” Harkin said after the July 23 confirmation hearing for the last two.
Having a full NLRB is important to workers, union and non-union. Board decisions set the standards of labor-management relations for 85 million U.S. workers, most of them in the private sector. But the board now has only three members: Two temporary “recess appointees” whom Obama named in January 2012, plus chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, whose term ends Aug. 27.
Without three members, the board could not function. Besides Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa, whom the Labor Committee each approved 13-9 on July 24, Obama re-nominated Pearce and nominated GOP management-side labor lawyers Harry Johnson and Phillip Miscimarra for NLRB seats. The Labor panel approved those three earlier. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and all 12 Democrats voted for Schiffer and Hirozawa.
Schiffer and Hirozawa, now Pearce’s chief of staff, went through the July 23 Labor Committee confirmation hearing relatively easily – until Senator Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, went after Schiffer. He doubted that, given her service with the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers, she could be objective, even after starting her labor law career with the NLRB in Detroit.
Scott, a Tea Party favorite, represents one of the two least-unionized states in the U.S. Its GOP governor, Nikki Haley, appointed a lawyer from an union-busting firm as state Labor Commissioner. She’s also vowed to make South Carolina “union free.”
Scott resurrected yet another grievance: The reluctant decision by NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon to charge Boeing with labor law-breaking and specifically with illegal retaliation against the Machinists. The retaliation was, quoting Boeing’s CEO, deciding to produce the 787 Dreamliner at a new plant near Charleston, S.C., taking its work away from unionized IAM members in the Pacific Northwest.
Scott brandished the Boeing case as he charged that Schiffer would not be objective and neutral in her decision-making as a board member.
“In 2007, you said that ‘employers used the board as a sword,’ that ‘it no longer protects workers’ rights,’ and you used terms” about employers’ actions towards workers like “’spy’, ‘harass’, ‘threatening’ and ‘deny.’ You seem to have a strong position for ambush elections. And you attacked my bill in the House, HR2587, banning the board from destroying jobs in one state to transfer them to another state,” Scott alleged, referring to the Boeing brouhaha, which IAM and the firm later settled.
“So how can we have a high level of confidence in your neutrality and objectivity?” Scott challenged.
“I started at the NLRB as a board agent” hearing cases in Detroit, Schiffer calmly replied. “I was commended for my work. I understand, there and at the UAW and the AFL-CIO, what it means to take a job seriously. I want the” National Labor Relations Act “to succeed.” Her NLRB mentor was known for judiciousness, she added.
Mark Gruenberg writes for Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.