On July 18, 2013, the Senate confirmed Thomas Perez as labor secretary with a party-line vote of 54-46. Perez is currently the head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and will replace Hilda Solis, who resigned from the top labor post in January 2013. Following his nomination in March, Republicans aggressively criticized Perez, citing to his alleged involvement in a quid pro quo arrangement between the DOJ and the City of St. Paul while an assistant attorney general. Perez previously served as Maryland’s labor secretary in Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration and will be the only Latino in President Obama’s cabinet.
Two days before Perez’ confirmation, the White House announced the nominations of Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer to the National Labor Relations Board. The new union-friendly nominees have replaced previous nominees and current Board members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, whose recess appointments have been recently challenged by a federal appellate court. As discussed previously in The Employment Brief, the Supreme Court is set to review the constitutionality of those recess appointments during its next term, and its decision will determine the legitimacy of the numerous NLRB decisions made since President Obama appointed Block and Griffin.
Hirozawa is currently chief counsel to NLRB chairman Mark Gaston Pierce. Schiffer is AFL-CIO’s associate general counsel, and previously served as deputy general counsel for the United Auto Workers. If the two pro-union nominees win approval from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, they will soon join three other Board nominees for Senate confirmation votes. For the first time during Obama’s presidency, the NLRB could be fully staffed with Senate-confirmed members in the coming weeks. Of course, the impact on employers of this union-friendly Board will be significant, and very likely in a challenging manner.