WASHINGTON – An Annapolis lawyer who has long represented unions tried to assure Senate Republicans on Tuesday that she could serve as an impartial member of the National Labor Relations Board.
Nancy Jean Schiffer and another attorney are President Barack Obama's latest picks to fill the long understaffed board that hears disputes between workers and management.
Obama nominated Schiffer and Attorney Kent Y. Hirozawa last week as part of the deal that ended a GOP filibuster threat and cleared the way for the Senate confirmation of Marylander Thomas E. Perez as labor secretary. Schiffer and Hirozawa replace two nominees to whom Republicans had objected.
Schiffer, 63, has long advocated for pro-labor legislation as an attorney for the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers – experience that drew concern from Republican senators.
"You've been a very prominent and effective advocate," GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander told her. "What can you say to [assure] employers who would come before a board that might include you that you'll move from the position of advocate – which you've been a pretty fierce one, on behalf of labor – to an impartial judge?"
Schiffer, who was a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board earlier in her career, said she was asked the same question in reverse when she left that job to go into private practice: Clients wanted to know how they could trust a former hearing officer to represent their interests.
"I appreciate that these are two different roles: Advocate and neutral arbiter," she said. "I want all litgiants who come before the board to feel that they have been dealt with fairly and honestly. … I have no preconceived agenda. I will approach the cases that come before me with an open mind."