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Senate GOP likely to rebuff Obama’s labor board picks

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2011

Senate Republicans appear likely to block confirmation of President Obama's two latest nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, which is increasingly under fire for being too friendly to unions.

The nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, are "clearly a boon for big labor," the Senate Republican Policy Committee said in blog post.

"Considering the NLRB's controversial actions over the last year, it is highly unlikely that Senate Republicans will confirm any additional board members — Republican or Democrat," said RPC analyst Allison Dembeck.

Mr. Griffin is general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers. He also has served since 1994 on the lawyers coordinating committee of the AFL-CIO.

"We have a lot of concerns about his conflicts of interest," said Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the conservative Workforce Fairness Institute. "It's hard to see how someone who's on the lawyers' coordinating committee of the AFL-CIO wouldn't have to stay out of every case involving an AFL affiliate."

He said Ms. Block, deputy secretary for congressional affairs at the Labor Department, is "completely pro-labor and pro-card check," referring to a method of employees organizing by signing a form stating they desire union representation.

"She is [Labor Secretary] Hilda Solis' lobbyist," Mr. Wszolek said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has endorsed both nominations and urged the Senate to confirm them swiftly.

"Dick Griffin and Sharon Block are outstanding choices for the NLRB," Mr. Trumka said in a statement. "Both have long and deep labor law experience and understanding of workers' issues."

In addition to conservatives' concerns about the nominees, congressional Republicans are likely to prevent Mr. Obama from installing them through recess appointments. Their posture is partly in response to what they perceive as the NLRB's recent pro-union actions, including filing a complaint against Boeing's decision to build a 787 non-union production facility in South Carolina.

If no new NLRB board members are confirmed by the end of this month, the five-person board will be unable to function with only two members. A third board member, former Service Employees International Union official Craig Becker, must leave Dec. 31 when his one-year recess appointment expires.

The nomination of Republican Terence Flynn, who is chief counsel to NLRB member Brian Hayes, also is languishing in the Senate.

Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the president's latest two appointments to the NLRB are moot.

"This appears to be a pointless exercise as the past actions by the Board have so poisoned the well that it is highly unlikely these nominations will go anywhere," Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

The NLRB's general counsel would still be able to take action on behalf of the agency, even if the board cannot vote. Given the NLRB's pro-labor tendencies, an inactive board "is probably the best we can hope for," Mr. Wszolek said.

Boeing and its unions recently settled their case, but some congressional Republicans have called for an investigation of the NLRB's involvement. Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, has said he will block any nominees to the board until he gets more details about the board's decision to file the complaint.

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