— Posts About President Obama

Recess Appointments Made to NLRB

President Obama this past week appointed three members to the National Labor Relations Board.  They include Sharon Block, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs with the US Department of Labor; Terence Flynn, who was Chief Counsel to current NLRB Board Member Brian Hayes, and; Richard Griffin, formerly General Counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers.  More information on the new members of the Board may be found here and here.  The members were sworn in on Monday.  President Obama needed to appoint these members by recess appointment in order to keep the NLRB properly functioning.

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NLRB to Speed up Unionizing Elections

On December 21, The National Labor Relations Board voted 2-1 in favor of new steps to increase the speed of union elections.  The Board hopes to keep election and campaign time to less than 21 days.  Often, there are long delays to unionizing elections because of legal challenges brought by the employer.  The Board wants to require that these challenges be postponed until after the employees have voted for or against the union.  These changes were first proposed in June and the NLRB held public hearings and reviewed thousands of public comments.  The new rules will likely be challenged by employers in court.  More coverage here.

This was the Board’s last major policy decision before it lost one member, which leaves it without a quorum to act.  President Obama has nominated Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the Board.  Ms. Block is currently deputy assistant secretary of Congressional affairs with the Labor Department.  Mr. Griffin has served on the board of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee since 1994 and is general counsel to the International Union of Operating Engineers.  Republicans may well block these nominations in an effort to prevent the Board from functioning at all.  More coverage here.

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Congress Extends Unemployment Benefits for Two Months

Shortly before Christmas, House Republicans finally gave in and sensibly agreed to the two-month extension for extended unemployment benefits.  When Congress returns after recess, debate will resume on whether to further continue the vitally needed unemployment insurance programs.  For more information on North Carolina’s Extended and Emergency Unemployment benefits, see the Division of Employment Security’s site, here.

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Federal Unemployment Benefits Should be Renewed

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) published an excellent paper in October, arguing for a one-year extension of the Federal Unemployment Insurance benefits for unemployed workers.  The paper is entitled “Hanging On By a Thread: Renew Federal Unemployment Insurance to Aid Families, Boost Stalled Economy

The paper states: “Unless Congress reauthorizes the current federal extension programs before the December 31st deadline, millions of workers and their families will be left without their primary means of support to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and cover their other most basic necessities.”

NELP’s paper also argues that extending benefits will help families as well as give the economy a leg up:  “Consistent with the prior research, [Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute] found that the nation’s economy grew by $2 for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance during the latest recession, as unemployed workers spent their benefits in their communities at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers and service providers.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep Congress in session in D.C. until federal unemployment benefits are renewed for the coming year, even if they have to work through the holidays to do so.

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President Obama Signs Jobs Bill Helping Veterans

President Obama this week signed into law the first portion of his jobs package. The bill, H.R. 674, which had vast bipartisan support, also known as VOW to Hire Heroes Act, creates tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, especially those who have been unemployed for more than six months and those with service connected disabilities.  Though there has been very little action from Congress on the jobs front, this is an encouraging first step.  Hopefully the House and Senate can get their act together and start really helping unemployed workers secure employment, and in doing so jump-start the economy.  More on the bill here.

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Unemployment Benefits Extended through 2011; More Help Needed

On Friday, President Obama signed the large tax cut bill that includes an extension of extended unemployment benefits through the end of 2011.  While, the extension of those benefits was sorely needed, it is extremely unfortunate that the bill did not include additional spending measures that would stimulate the economy.  As further evidence that the Great Recession continues, the latest report shows that North Carolina lost 12,500 jobs in November, more than any other state, pushing the statewide unemployment rate to 9.7 percent.  Without further assistance, the economy is unlikely to grow enough to create the needed amount of jobs.  And, 2011 state budget cuts, which are starting to be discussed, are likely to make things even worse.

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Congress Provides Funds to Save Teacher Jobs

Last week, the Senate finally passed the $26 billion package to aid states that are still reeling from the effects of the recession.  The legislation provides $10 billion to retain teachers who might otherwise lose jobs to cutbacks, and an additional $16 billion to help states with rising health care costs.  The bill was quickly passed by the House and signed by President Obama.

Of that amount, North Carolina received about $300 million to save teachers’ jobs.  North Carolina leaders are now figuring out when and how to use the money.  Obviously, one possibility would be to use some of the funds to re-hire teachers and teaching assistants who were recently laid off due to budget cuts.  Also, some amount may be saved till next year, when the state’s deficit will reach its highest level.

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Judge Wynn Confirmed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge Jim Wynn was finally confirmed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last week.  Judge Wynn was first nominated for the court in 1999. His confirmation comes after months of being held up in the Senate by Republican obstruction after President Obama re-nominated him last year.  (Republicans, however, are still holding up the confirmation of North Carolina Judge Albert Diaz to another seat on the Fourth Circuit.)  Judge Wynn was sworn in on Tuesday, and officially resigned from his seat on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  Judge Wynn’s former seat on the Court of Appeals will now be up for election in November.

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Unemployment Extension Finally Passed Over Republican Filibuster

Senate Democrats, with the help of only two Republicans, were finally available to break the deadlock over the extension of unemployment benefits.  President Obama signed the bill this past Thursday.  This bill provides a continuation of the program of extended benefits for those who exhaust the standard 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Coverage is here, here.  Although this bill is only a small part of the jobs-boosting agenda Congress needs to have, it was still vital for millions of unemployed having great difficulty finding a job in this broken economy.  For an example, see here.  Although there appears to be too much opposition for additional action on jobs right now, one hopes both parties will come to their senses and realize that the federal government can and must do much more to create sustainable employment growth.

For those seeking benefits, see this note from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission: “On July 22, 2010, the extension of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program was signed into law. The new law extends the filing deadline, but it does not provide for additional EUC08 tiers. The ESC is working with the Department of Labor to implement this change as quickly as possible. If you are currently filing for benefits please continue to do so. If you are not currently filing for benefits our agency will notify you on how to reinstate your claim.”

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Republicans Continue Assault on Unemployed Workers

Senate Republicans (with the help of one Democrat, Ben Nelson) have continued their filibuster of the Democrats’ jobs bill, mustering the 41 votes needed on Thursday to prevent the bill from passage.  Republican obstructionism will ultimately spell the end of extended unemployment benefits for millions, even as the economy is nowhere near creating significant job growth.

On top of that, failure to pass the bills means states will not receive the much-needed $23 billion to pay for sharply rising Medicaid costs.  (The great recession has swelled the ranks of those eligible for health insurance through Medicaid.)  Without this money, states will be forced to impose even greater cut backs, which will mean lost jobs for teachers and other state employees.

Republicans say they oppose the bill on the grounds that it raises the deficit, but what they really oppose are the small tax increases (such as one on hedge fund managers) that would be used to pay for the bill.  Disappointingly, the NY Times notes that the “Obama administration has not fought aggressively for the legislation.”  It appears the President is not focusing on jobs, which should be his highest priority.

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