Marking the end of a long-running debate over its legitimacy, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a full board of five Senate confirmed members for the first time in a decade. Following the August 12 swearing-in of the last of the four new members, the NLRB can now quell doubts of its authority to issue decisions and enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). According to a statement by NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, a fully confirmed board "will revitalize our commitment to protect the rights of American employers and employees under the National Labor Relations Act."
As a result of a bipartisan deal to avert a shutdown of the NLRB, the Obama administration agreed to withdraw the two recess appointments at the center of numerous legal challenges, including the infamous Noel Canning case, in exchange for assurances from Republicans that the confirmations of two new NLRB nominees may proceed in an expedited manner. President Obama then made two nominations: Nancy Schiffer (D), retired associate counsel at the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa (D), chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Pearce, who were quickly confirmed by the Senate. Filling in the remaining seats are two new Republicans, Harry Johnson III and Philip Miscimarra, as well as NLRB Chairman Pearce who will be sworn in for a second term later this month.
Despite this development, the Noel Canning decision remains under Supreme Court review. A decision is expected next year which will likely determine the validity of hundreds of NLRB decisions issued while the controversial appointees were in place. Union and nonunion employers alike are cautioned to monitor the Noel Canning case as well as future decisions issued by this now fully-functioning board.