Despite Opposition, Senate Confirms Controversial NLRB General Counsel Nominee

In a 55-44 vote, the U.S. Senate Oct. 29 confirmed Richard Griffin to serve a four-year term as the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) general counsel, despite opposition from Senate Republicans and the ABC-led Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW). 

Griffin, former general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers and controversially “recess” appointed NLRB member, will be responsible for investigating and prosecuting unfair labor practice cases against employers and unions, supervising the board’s field offices and issuing enforcement policies on a range of workplace labor issues. 

During Griffin’s tenure as board member from January 2012 to July 2013, the NLRB was heavily criticized for its aggressive posture toward employers. His work at the board included participation in hundreds of decisions, all of which were issued under a cloud of legal uncertainty stemming from appointments made by President Obama in January 2012 while the Senate was in session. Griffin’s appointment was deemed unconstitutional by several federal appeals courts earlier this year, and the U.S. Supreme Court plans to issue a definitive ruling in 2014. 

CDW opposed Griffin’s nomination on the grounds that he accepted the unlawful 2012 appointment and then failed to show restraint in the wake of subsequent legal challenges. The coalition argued that Griffin’s actions in turn “imposed and continue to impose real costs and additional layers of litigation on employers and other parties involved in NLRB actions.”

In addition, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) questioned Griffin’s ability to be impartial, stating that the NLRB “needs to be umpire rather than advocate and Mr. Griffin’s background as a union advocate and his work as general counsel for one of the major unions doesn’t do anything to help me believe that he will improve the situation at the NLRB.”

NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce issued a statement praising Griffin and thanking Solomon for his support.