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July 23, 2013
National Labor Relations Board Nominees Set to be Confirmed
On July 16th, President Barack Obama nominated Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa to the National Labor Relations Board. Schiffer is the associate general counsel at the AFL-CIO; Hirozawa is the chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce. They replace nominees Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, whom Republicans had objected to because they were recess appointments. Saying that the labor board "is responsible for enforcing protections that are fundamental to growing the economy and creating jobs from the middle class," Obama praised his new nominees and said: "I look forward to the agency continuing its work to promote better wages and conditions for all American workers." The National Labor Relations Board is charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act. Starting in the Great Depression and continuing through World War II and the economic growth and challenges that followed, the NLRB has worked to guarantee the rights of employees to bargain collectively, if they choose to do so. Employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act are afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is set to vote on their nominations today. The full Senate is likely to vote on their nominations and those of three others — current chairman Mark Pearce and Republicans Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra — next week. (The minority party gets to pick two of the NLRB’s five members.) But the nominees have some conservatives crying “foul”, claiming they have blatant conflicts of interest. However, during Tuesday's hearing both nominees insisted that they could be fair and unbiased. When asked by Senator Lamar Alexander, top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee "What can you say to employers who will come before a board that might include you that you've moved from the position of advocate ... to an impartial judge?" Schiffer responded “I appreciate that these are two different roles — advocate and neutral arbiter. I have no preconceived agenda." Hirozawa insisted he has "a very clear understanding of the difference between someone who's an advocate and someone who is an impartial adjudicator." It is expected that the current NLRB nominees will be confirmed before the senators break for August recess.