A three-judge panel for the District of Columbia circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case that thrust a Yakima company into the national spotlight.
In March, Noel Canning, a family-owned bottler, sued the National Labor Relations Board after the federal agency ruled in favor of Teamsters Local 760, which argued that it reached agreement with Noel for a new bargaining contract in December 2010. Noel Canning argued there was no such agreement.
What garnered national attention was Noel’s main argument — that the NLRB did not have a proper quorum because two members of the three-person panel that issued the ruling were questionable recess appointments by President Barack Obama in January.
Republican senators had argued that the Senate was in session when President Obama made those appointments. But White House counsel argued that it was a pro forma session where few senators were present and no formal business was conducted.
As a result, Republican legislators, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other pro-business organizations filed briefs in the case supporting Noel Canning’s argument. They see the lawsuit as an opportunity to question the appointments and question the credibility of the NLRB, which they say has been pushing an aggressive, pro-union agenda.
Businesses need a decision on this case sooner than later as the NLRB is still ruling on numerous cases that impacts their operations, said Sheldon Gilbert, of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Businesses just need to know whether the NLRB has the authority to issue decisions,” he said.
A NLRB spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing cases.
Gary Lofland, a Yakima attorney representing Noel Canning, said he had no sense of when judges would make a decision or how they would rule.
“We just simply have to wait until the court issues its decision,” he said.