Dozens of workers joined labor and community leaders outside the JFK Federal Building Tuesday, urging the US Senate to immediately confirm President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). As part of a national day of action, the delegation called on US Senator Elizabeth Warren to push her colleagues to action on the critical nominations – which have languished for months under the threat of a filibuster.
President Obama has nominated a package of five individuals to serve on the NLRB – the important agency charged with settling labor-management disputes and protecting workers’ rights. The package of five nominees includes three current members of the Board —Chairman Mark Pearce and recessed appointed Members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin — plus two nominees who have not served previously on the Board: Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson. Both Miscimarra and Johnson are attorneys who have previously represented management in disputes with employees, making the nominees a truly ‘bi-partisan’ slate. Yet a group of US Senators has continued to stall the confirmation process, threatening to bring all NLRB proceedings to a screeching halt.
“Working families in Massachusetts deserve to know their rights are being protected on the job – and we need a fully-functioning Labor Relations Board to ensure that happens,” said Russ Davis of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. “We’re very fortunate to have a champion like Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, and we know she will push her colleagues to act immediately.The delegation cited a host of examples where NLRB functionality could have a significant impact on Massachusetts workers – including contract disputes between technical staff and managers at Boston television stations and a conflict over potentially illegal workplace retaliation at Lawrence-based CLASS, Inc. In the latter case, human service workers organized a union after their concerns over fair compensation and workplace health and safety issues went unaddressed. The employer retaliated with what workers view as selective discipline and terminations, which would be in violation of labor law. The NLRB is the primary venue charged with enforcing our nation’s laws prohibiting retaliation for protected concerted activities – but CLASS is among the many employers claiming the board lacks a quorum and is therefore unable to act.
“For months, we’ve fought for a voice on the job, but management is fighting us every step of the way,” said Nelson Rivera, a human service worker at CLASS, Inc. “These confirmations will ensure no employer can stifle workers’ voices or retaliate against them for speaking out. We need action now.”
Participating workers and community leaders met with key staff in Senator Warren’s office and delivered a formal letter urging her to push Senate colleagues to action on the confirmations. Organizers promised to continue their efforts until all five NLRB appointees are confirmed.
Human service workers Nelson Rivera (CLASS, Inc.) and Orlando Pena (Bridgewell) urged immediate confirmation of all five NLRB appointees in their meeting with key Warren staff.