Labor leader: Obama 'did the right thing' with recess appointments

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says President Obama "did the right thing," even after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the president overstepped his authority by making three unconstitutional recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

"President Obama made the recess appointments to the NLRB, because obstructionism by Republican senators was about to make the National Labor Relations Board inoperable due to a lack of NLRB members," Trumka said in a statement. "The president did the right thing and acted on solid legal authority in making these appointments. Had he not acted, millions of workers would have been deprived of their rights under our labor laws."

The Supreme Court invalidated Obama's recess appointments, arguing that Senate Republicans were still in session.

The recess appointments came at a time when Senate Republicans had been blocking President Obama's appointees to the NLRB because the lawmakers were upset with what they saw as a pro-labor agenda by the board.

Without the new board members, the NLRB would have been restricted in what it was able to accomplish.

So, Obama recess appointed Richard Griffin, Sharon Block and Terence Flynn while most of the Senate was still on Christmas vacation in early January 2012. A handful of Republicans stuck around Washington to hold pro forma sessions to prevent the president from making such recess appointments.

Obama did it anyway.

But Trumka, one of the nation's most powerful labor leaders, said the Supreme Court's ruling will have "far less" of an impact that it might have had, because those recess appointees are no longer serving on the NLRB. 

"Fortunately Senate leaders successfully changed Senate rules so that executive branch nominees can now be confirmed by a majority of the Senate and cannot be blocked by a minority of senators," Trumka said.

"The impact of today’s ruling is far less than it might have been, because there is now a full complement of Senate-confirmed members of the NLRB and a Senate-confirmed NLRB general counsel," he added. "We are confident the NLRB will handle the pending cases impacted by Noel Canning efficiently and expeditiously."