|Contact: Jimmy Greene
|For Immediate Release
October 30, 2013
General Counsel for Labor Board Confirmed
WASHINGTON—The Senate confirmed Richard Griffin as the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel, putting the former union lawyer in the powerful role of deciding when to investigate and prosecute companies and unions charged with unfair labor
The near-party-line 55-44 vote underscores the political divide over Mr. Griffin and other officials President Barack Obama has appointed to the agency, which oversees union elections and referees workplace disputes in the private sector. The only Republican to vote for Mr. Griffin's confirmation was Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
For several years, Republicans have accused the Democratic majority on the NLRB's five-seat board of favoring unions and workers over employers when deciding cases and setting new rules. They have likewise accused the agency's acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, of being biased when choosing to prosecute companies involved in union disputes, and have voiced skepticism about Mr.
Griffin's ability to be neutral.
"Mr. Griffin's nomination does not do enough for me to show the promise of moving the board from [union] advocacy toward umpire," said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has overseen the confirmation process.
The August nomination of Mr. Griffin was controversial because it came just as he was being displaced as an NLRB board member because of his so-called recess appointment by Mr. Obama early in 2012—a matter now before the Supreme Court.
Opponents of Mr. Griffin have also raised concerns about his previous work as a lawyer for a labor union. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), who is chairman of the committee that has overseen the nomination, said Mr. Griffin has been fair. "Most lawyers either spend their careers representing labor or management," which doesn't make them "inherently biased," he said.
Mr. Harkin said Mr. Griffin's confirmation would bring "some much-needed certainty" to an agency that has been "haunted by political
attacks," including blocks on Obama nominees. The agency has had an acting general counsel for three years and just recently the Senate has confirmed a full board.
Tuesday's vote is the first of several contentious confirmation votes expected this week. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the chamber to confirm several others, including Katherine Archuleta to be director of the Office of Personnel Management, Tom Wheeler to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Alan Estevez to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense, and
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to be U.S. representative to international banking groups.
Union officials, who have said the Obama NLRB is simply giving unions a fair shake, applauded Mr. Griffin's confirmation. "A functioning NLRB is good news for all workers—whether they belong to a union or not—seeking to exercise the rights they are guaranteed," such as bargaining for fair wages and safe workplaces, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
NLRB Board Chairman Mark Pearce made the agency's broad plans quite clear though he didn't offer specifics. In a statement, he said that the confirmation "will ensure the NLRB's ability to enforce the National Labor Relations Act" which "guarantees the right of private-sector workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers and to participate in concerted activities to improve their pay and working conditions."
Michael Lotito, a management-side attorney in San Francisco who co-heads Littler Mendelson's Workplace Policy Institute, said he expects Mr. Griffin will look for opportunities to pursue cases that can expand unions' rights to use workers' email to organize and could "push the envelope" to expand the rights unions have to access employers' property during organizing campaigns.
"At the end of the day, you're going to see a continuation of the gradual erosion of management prerogatives and a continued expansion of employee rights, especially for nonunion employees, which constitutes virtually everybody," he said.
Content: Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2013