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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is fully staffed thanks to a deal struck in the Senate to keep the filibuster—the rule which, when applied, requires that a bill or appointment must garner 60 votes to reach the floor for an up-or-down vote— from being used against several presidential appointments. The Senate approved the composition of the NLRB on July 30.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared after the vote, “America’s working families applaud the Senate for confirming President Obama’s outstanding and highly qualified nominees to the NLRB. This is the first time in more than a decade that the NLRB has been fully staffed.

“That is good news for all workers seeking to exercise the rights they are guaranteed by law. Those essential rights include the ability to bargain together for fair wages and living standards, and a workplace safe from abuse, harassment and intimidation.”

Because the NLRB was understaffed for so long, there is an alarming logjam involving unfair labor practices cases, making it even more difficult for workers to have their rights respected.

The fully-staffed five-member board includes two new members — former AFL-CIO attorney Nancy Schiffer and NLRB counsel Kent Hirozawa —as well as current NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, and two Republicans: Los Angeles attorney Harry Johnson and Chicago attorney Philip Miscimarra.

Noting that “two superb and qualified NLRB members, Dick Griffin and Sharon Block, (were prevented) from continuing to serve the American people,” Trumka added, “the new NLRB members also bring impeccable qualifications and experience to the board.”

President Obama had named Griffin (a former attorney for the MTD-affiliated Operating Engineers) and Block as recess appointments in January 2012. However, Senate Republicans challenged the president’s action stating the pair took their positions at a time the GOP legislators said the body was not properly in recess.

Recess appointments allow the President to fill open positions in the government. However, they can only be made when the Senate is in recess. Moreover, to remain in effect, a recess appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session of Congress, or the position becomes vacant again. Senate Republicans said they would filibuster such a vote, preventing any action from being taken on Griffin and Block.

“With today’s vote, our country has qualified public servants on duty to defend America’s workers,” the AFL-CIO president acknowledged. “We congratulate all of the nominees and look forward to having a functioning NLRB that will fairly and impartially oversee the workplace rights of millions of Americans.”