Shortly after jolting Republicans by naming Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), President Obama infuriated his rivals again by adding not one, but three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while Senate Republicans are away from Capitol Hill.
The president named Sharon Block, Terence Flynn and Richard Griffin to the board, which conducts elections for labor union representation and arbitrates workplace disputes as well as federal labor issues. When the five-year term of former board member Craig Baker expired at the end of December, the five-member board no longer had a quorum, threatening the labor board's continued operation.
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. We can't wait to act to strengthen the economy and restore security for our middle class and those trying to get in it, and that's why I am proud to appoint these fine individuals to get to work for the American people, Obama said in a White House statement announcing both the CFPB and NLRB nominations.
Move Sidesteps Congressional Republicans
The NLRB appointments sidestep congressional Republicans who had obstructed the nominations, in an alleged ploy to leave the board without enough members to fully conduct its business in 2012. The independent agency has been targeted by the GOP, who claim the agency favors the labor movement, a key part of Obama's -- and most Democrats' -- support base that is expected to rally behind the party in the upcoming 2012 elections.
The tension between Republicans and the NLRB reportedly reached a breaking point last month when the agency filed a lawsuit against Boeing for relocating a plant from Washington to South Carolina, a move the labor board claims was done in retaliation against workers for striking.
As a right-to-work state, South Carolina prohibits union contracts at private sector workplaces from requiring employees to pay union dues in order to qualify for representation. While Republicans argue right-to-work laws allow workers to keep more of their income, labor organizations insist it weakens funding for union programs, which could potentially drive down wages, destroy funding for training programs, and lead to unsafe working conditions.
Although the NLRB dropped the lawsuit against Boeing, it is still being used as fodder on the right. The day after Obama announced his recess appointments, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney released a 30-second campaign advertisement in South Carolina -- whose primary election is scheduled for Jan. 21 -- bashing the NLRB and Obama.
The ad features Romney speaking from what appears to be a factory, before changing to an exterior shot of South Carolina's Boeing plant as Romney accuses Obama of adopting polices that affect our economy based not upon what's right for the American worker, but, instead, what's right for their politics, The Associated Press reported.
Obama's NLRB nominees, consisting of two Democrats and one Republican, all have extensive background in labor issues. Block is currently a top administrator at the U.S. Department of Labor and served as Senior Labor and Employment Counsel for the Senate HELP committee, where she reportedly worked for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Flynn, who spent years as a labor attorney in private practice, is chief counsel to NLRB member Brian Hayes, while Griffin serves as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers as well as on the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.