Senate Confirms Three National Mediation Board Nominees

Last night, the U.S. Senate confirmed a three-member slate of National Mediation Board (NMB) nominees, giving the NMB a full complement of members for the first time in over a year. The NMB is the federal agency that oversees airline and railroad labor relations and administers the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

The NMB confirmations include new Board Member Nicholas Christopher Geale, a Republican, who fills the NMB seat left vacant in June of 2012. Geale joins the NMB from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee where he served since 2011 as director of oversight and investigations for former Ranking Member Michael B. Enzi and his successor, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander. Geale was also oversight counsel to the committee from 2009 to 2011. Prior to joining the HELP Committee, Geale was counselor to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor and attorney and advisor to the solicitor of labor during the second term of President George W. Bush. Earlier in his career, Geale was an assistant general counsel with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and an associate with Thelen Reid & Priest LLP. Geale graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1999.

The Senate also reconfirmed NMB Chair Linda Puchala to her second term. Before becoming a Board Member, Puchala was a 10-year NMB veteran, serving as the agency’s associate director of alternative dispute resolution services and a mediator. Earlier in her career, Puchala was staff director of the Michigan State Employees Association and president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

Board Member Harry Hoglander, now in his eleventh year on the Board, was renominated for a fourth term on May 19, 2011. Prior to joining the Board, Hoglander was a legislative specialist for Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) and, earlier, an executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

NMB members are nominated for three-year terms but often are not confirmed until well into the terms for which they were nominated. For example, Member Hoglander is already two years into his term, which expires in less than a year on June 30, 2014. Chair Puchala’s term expires on June 30, 2015. Geale, on the other hand, was confirmed near the beginning of his term, which does not expire until June 30, 2016. Term expiration often has little practical effect for the NMB, however. Under the Railway Labor Act, NMB members can hold over indefinitely after the expiration of their terms until they are replaced by confirmation of a new member.