By: Michele Haydel Gehrke, Esq.
On October 29, 2013, the Senate voted 55-44 to confirm Richard Griffin as General Counsel to the National Labor Relations Board. The Senate vote was mostly along party lines, with only Republican Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) voting with her Democratic colleagues for confirmation. Griffin replaces Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon who is retiring.
Griffin is no stranger to the Board and labor relations. He has a union background, and is a former staff attorney for the Board. In January 2012, President Obama nominated Griffin and two others to serve as Board members during an alleged Congressional recess. These “recess nominations” were challenged by Republicans and in courts by litigants. In the leading case of Noel Canning v. NLRB, 705 F.3d 490 (D.C. Cir. 2013), the United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia held that the “recess appointments” were unconstitutional because Congress was not truly in recess due to Senate pro forma sessions. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review Noel Canning, but a decision is not expected until next year.
Despite the Noel Canning controversy, Griffin continued to serve as a member of the NLRB, and was renominated by President Obama in February 2013. His nomination was later withdrawn as part of a deal the President struck with Congressional Republicans to end a standoff on other Presidential nominees. In August 2013, President Obama nominated Griffin for the General Counsel position. The nomination was approved by the Senate committee in September, setting up the full Senate confirmation vote this week.
With the confirmation of Griffin as General Counsel, the NLRB is now fully staffed with a confirmed General Counsel and five Board members. The Board has regained stability, and can focus on its mission of overseeing labor relations.