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The National Labor Relations Board can function once again, thanks to the filibuster deal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck with Sen. John McCain and a number of Republicans not named Mitch McConnell. The Senate confirmed five nominees, three Democrats and two Republicans. Democrats and long-time labor attorneys Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Jean Schiffer were confirmed with votes of 54-44. The third Democrat, Mark Gaston Pierce, is the board's current chairman and was confirmed 59-38. All three Democrats faced cloture votes, per the filibuster agreement, and the Republicans were passed on voice votes.

For the first time in a decade, the board will have five fully confirmed members, and will avoid having to close up shop next month. At the end of August, Pearce's first five-year term would have expired, leaving the board without a quorum and unable to act. A few weeks ago, Laura Clawson gave us a few reasons to care about the NLRB, all workers who are relying upon a functioning NLRB for their jobs (via the AFL-CIO).

1. Dexter Wray, Alaska: Dexter worked as a maintenance engineer at a Sheraton in Anchorage.  His manager pressured him and several of his co-workers to decertify their union and told them to lie to the NLRB.  When they told the truth, Dexter and two of his co-workers were fired.  The NLRB ruled that the firings and coercion were illegal, but the hotel has refused to rehire them.  Dexter didn't work for six months and incurred a large medical debt when he lost his health insurance.

2. Michelle Baricko, Connecticut: Michelle is a certified nursing assistant at West River Health Care.  She and her co-workers were locked out for months during contract negotiations.  The hospital's owner, HealthBridge/CareOne, declared that negotiations were permanently stalled and implemented its own contract, which the employees did not agree to.  The NLRB obtained a court injunction for the company to stop its unfair labor practices, but HealthBridge declared bankruptcy and was able to escape its obligations to the employees. The Board and the employees' union have appealed the decision.  Michelle was forced to sell her home and still struggles to provide for her three sons.

3. Kathleen Von Eitzen, Michigan: Kathleen is a baker at Panera Bread who organized 17 of her coworkers to form a union.  The company fought back, firing one employee and cutting Kathleen's pay, giving her a negative evaluation because of her organizing.  The NLRB found that Panera violated the workers' rights and ordered the company to pay back and compensate employees for cutting their hours. Panera appealed and the case is now stalled in federal court.  Kathleen's husband has had two heart attacks and can't work full time.  They can't afford insurance because of her low pay and their home is now in foreclosure.

Now how hard was that, Senate? Doesn't it feel good to actually accomplish something? Think maybe you can break through a few more hurdles and make this a habit?

Yeah, right. Tell your Democratic senators to keep filibuster reform moving, and to bring back the talking filibuster.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 03:22 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Labor and Daily Kos.

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