Dems Bend Again As Labor Is Relegated to Back Seat
On Tuesday, Senate leaders struck a tentative deal to confirm seven nominees to run federal agencies and departments. Among the confirmations, Richard Cordray will lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Gina McCarthy will head the Environmental Protection Agency, Tom Perez the Labor Department; and Fred Hochberg for the Export-Import Bank.
The agreement ends an ongoing filibuster battle between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). In exchange for the nominations, Reid agreed to (temporarily) forego implementing a nuclear option which would alter filibuster rules by a simple majority vote.
While many are touting a huge victory for Democrats, if not an all out embarrassment for McConnell, the deal proves more complicated for labor as Democrats agreed to replace Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, two recess-appointed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). As late as Monday night, Democrat rhetoric was high in support of Block and Griffin — abandoning them was not an option. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the committee that oversees the NLRB, remarked that it “grossly unfair to throw them out simply to make a deal” and that he would “challenge any bargain that does.”
By Tuesday, Harkin and some other Senate Democrats had changed their minds.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) was quick to share his outrage over the Democrats’ decision to ditch their prior NLRB nominees. Block and Griffin were not just thrown out. They were “tossed under the bus.”
“There is not one intellectual argument…why those nominations shouldn’t go forward. It’s just [Republicans] want their pound of flesh from working people in this country, and this is where they’re going to get it because they were able to convince four or five Democrats to go with them.”
While Reid and Democrats smell victory as Republican’s pledge to confirm President Obama’s NLRB replacements (AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa, chief counsel to the NLRB chairman) to the board by August 27, that fact remains that McConnell and Republicans still retain leverage in the filibuster fight. While “nuclear” talk may have seemed bold for Democrats, they’ve continually shown that when it comes to the negotiation table, they feel most comfortable in an accommodating role.
While a working NLRB through the remainder of Obama’s presidency can serve as justification as to why Democrats buckled, the message remains clear for those in labor. Labor is not a priority nor worth fighting for. It is destined to finish forever second in the eyes of Democrats. And that’s on a lucky day.