Labor lawyer, NLRB nominee Schiffer heads to full Senate

WASHINGTON -- An Annapolis attorney nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Labor Relations Board cleared a committee vote Wednesday and is expected to win confirmation by the full Senate as early as next week.

Nancy Jean Schiffer, a longtime attorney for the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers, was approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on a 13-9 vote -- securing support from all Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.


Schiffer and fellow labor attorney Kent Y. Hirozawa were nominated last week as part of an agreement that ended a GOP filibuster of several presidential appointments. The other nominees to the five-member board are also pending before the Senate.

"Once these five nominations are approved by the Senate, our country will have a fully-confirmed, fully-functional Board for the first time in more than a decade -- a huge step forward for workers, businesses, and our economy," said Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chair of the committee that advanced Schiffer.


If nominees are not confirmed by next month, the board will lose its quorum to rule on cases. But under last week's deal Republicans agreed not to filibuster the nominees, which means they can be confirmed with a simple majority rather than the 60-vote threshold usually required.

That agreement also cleared the way for Marylander Thomas E. Perez to be confirmed last week as the next secretary of the U.S. Labor Department.

Schiffer grew up in a family of dairy farmers in Michigan, studied at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan Law School and began her career in the Detroit office of the National Labor Relations Board.

In recent years, the NLRB has reduced the time requirements for union elections, endorsed the organization of "sub-units" within larger bargaining units, and required employers to post rules in the workplace informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The last rule was invalidated by two federal courts of appeals.

Republicans pressed Schiffer during a hearing Wednesday on her union background.

"This administration has been pushing the NLRB further and further toward the side of union advocacy, rather than fair adjudication," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who voted against Schiffer and Hirozawa. "Will they be judges and not advocates?"