Healthcare employers are wary while unions representing healthcare workers are hopeful as the U.S. Senate appears poised this week to confirm two Obama administration appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, thus moving toward filling all five board seats. Two Republican nominees also are also expected to be confirmed at a later date.
The board has been operating with three members since January 2012. Senate Republicans had blocked the confirmations until reaching deal with Democrats this month to unfreeze some of President Barack Obama's executive branch appointments in return for Senate Democrats dropping plans to limit filibusters.
The confirmations would remove the legal doubts about NLRB decisions made since Obama's two NLRB recess appointments in January 2012.
In January 2013, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled that those appointments and other Obama recess appointments were unconstitutional. That case, now on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, called into question a number of NLRB rulings affecting the healthcare industry. The three-member board, which included the two recess appointments deemed illegal and chairman Mark Pearce, made more than 200 rulings during that period, according to NLRB officials.
Prime Healthcare Services, a 19-hospital health system based in Ontario, Calif., told union officials representing Prime workers that it would not comply with two NLRB rulings made in 2012, involving the two recess appointees. Other healthcare employers also ignored labor-friendly NLRB decisions made during that period.