Liberal leaders—including those in labor unions—expressed concern during the recent presidential election that, if George W. Bush won, he could appoint as many as three conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the president-elect is about to hit the labor movement in an area even closer to home: During his term, he will replace all five members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), plus the board's legal counsel.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency created in 1935 to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The board's purview involves management-labor relations including employees forming new unions, activity under the federal right-to-work law, collective bargaining, and hearing complaints both from unions regarding management, and from employees seeking redress from either employers or unions.
The board currently consists of only three members: John C. Truesdale, the chairman, along with Wilma B. Liebman and Peter J. Hurtgen. Truesdale and Liebman are Democrats, Hurtgen is a Republican; all were appointed by President Clinton.
Republican J. Robert Brame III left the board in August. The board's fifth member, Democrat Sarah M. Fox, was serving under a recess appointment which expired when Congress adjourned earlier this month.
David B. Parker, the NLRB's information director, told Back Stage that Truesdale plans to leave the board soon after Bush's January inauguration. The chairman's presence currently provides a quorum for the board; but he will resign as soon as Bush nominates, and Congress approves, a replacement for Brame's or Fox's seat.
That means that, perhaps early in 2001, Bush will have appointed three of the five labor board members, including the new chairman. Hurtgen, a Miami attorney, finishes his term Aug. 27, 2001. So, by the end of the year, Bush probably will have filled four of the seats.
Liebman—a former deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), as well as legal counsel to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for nine years, and staff attorney with the NLRB for six—ends her board term in December 2002. That gives Bush the full house of NLRB seats during the first half of his term.
Leonard R. Page, the NLRB general counsel, saw his recess appointment expire when Congress adjourned. Parker said Clinton might appoint him as acting counsel until Bush decides on a replacement.
Back Stage contacted the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. to see if they had any predictions on who Bush might nominate to the NLRB, but the spokesperson didn't return the call by press time.
Stefan Gleason is vice president for communications with the National Right to Work Foundation in Virginia. The anti-union foundation monitors the NLRB and often files suit against the board on labor matters and against unions on behalf of non-union employees. Gleason said the foundation couldn't comment on potential board members, but could on the new President's labor policy.
"We hope the Bush administration would, in effect, give the board back to employees by selecting nominees who are sensitive to the individual rights of workers rather than support union officials," Gleason said. "Through the politicization of this current board under the Clinton administration, individual employees have been hung out to dry."