Obama Dumps NLRB Nominee Block

WASHINGTON (PAI)—In one of the first signs he is kowtowing to the incoming Senate Republican majority, Democratic President Barack Obama officially dumped the nomination of Sharon Block for an upcoming vacant seat on the National Labor Relations Board.


With strong backing from unions and workers, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved Block on a party-line vote this past summer.


The Republicans and their business backers screamed then because Block was one of Obama’s controversial “recess nominees” in January 2012. The Supreme Court later threw out the appointments, and the NLRB rulings those nominees participated in.


Block took the recess appointment, and held it because GOP filibusters prevented Obama from naming any regular NLRB members.  She stepped down as part of a compromise which broke the logjam and gave the board its full five members for the first time in a decade.


AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel had cited that service in urging senators, after the HELP panel’s vote, to confirm Block.  The fed had no official comment on Obama’s withdrawal of her name on November 12, but one union president told PAI last week that doing so could be a signal of how the administration would – or wouldn’t – stand up to the GOP.


“In accepting a recess appointment to the NLRB, Ms. Block answered the president’s call to public service, and she fulfilled her oath of office to faithfully perform the functions of her office during her tenure,” Samuel said when Obama nominated her.


“The suggestion by some during Ms. Block’s confirmation hearing that she somehow acted improperly by not resigning her recess appointment while the constitutional issues were being litigated would be laughable if it was not so offensive to Ms. Block’s integrity and dedication to the agency and law she swore to uphold.


“Ms. Block served with distinction during her time as a recess appointee to the NLRB and she has continued her work in public service as senior counsel to the Secretary of Labor. Ms. Block brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the position and a deep understanding of the issues facing workers, unions, and employers today.  She is supremely qualified to serve on the board,” Samuel concluded.


Predictably, business groups cheered when Obama dumped Block.  For example, the International Franchise Association called her tenure unconstitutional and labeled her anti-small business.


Politico reported that Obama would instead nominateLauren McFerran, chief labor counsel for the HELP committee, for the NLRB vacancy, but the White House website shows no NLRB nomination.  Unless someone fills NLRB member Nancy Schiffer’s vacancy, which will occur on December 16, the board will be tied, in partisan terms, 2-2.