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Federal labor post is given to local lawyer

A top Buffalo labor lawyer was appointed by President Obama over the weekend to the National Labor Relations Board, which is often called the "Supreme Court of labor law."

Mark G. Pearce, 56, will take his seat on the board after the president exercised his power of recess appointment Saturday following the Senate's failure to act on the 11-month-old nomination.

"I look forward to beginning work with them, and especially to addressing cases that have been pending for a long time," NLRB Chairman Wilma B. Liebman said of the appointment of Pearce and Craig Becker to the board, whose five members serve five-year terms.

Pearce was among 15 recess appointments made by the president, who blamed Republican delays in the Senate for blocking the appointments for months to score a political advantage.

"I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of the government," he said in a statement.

While the Senate failed to confirm Obama's nomination of Pearce and others for almost a year, the president invoked the often controversial political tool even though Senate Republicans had asked him not to. According to the Associated Press, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona called the move a "clear payback to organized labor."

Pearce would not comment Monday other than to confirm his appointment. He said he did not
feel free to discuss his new role until the Senate officially confirms the move, though he can now serve through the end of 2011 as a result of the president's action.

Last year, current and former colleagues described Pearce as a labor-friendly lawyer who also has good relations with attorneys who represent management.

"The good thing about Mark is that he has represented working people for decades, so he comes to this not with an ideological bent but with real working knowledge," Catherine Creighton, a Pearce law partner, told The Buffalo News in 2009.

As administrator of the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB oversees elections where workers determine whether they want to join a union. The board also has the responsibility of preventing and remedying unfair labor practices.

Pearce, a native of Brooklyn, graduated from Cornell University and moved to Buffalo to attend the University at Buffalo Law School. He served as a district trial specialist with the NLRB's Buffalo office before entering private practice. He has served on the Commission on Increasing Diversity in the State Government Workforce.

A founding partner of the Buffalo law firm of Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux, Pearce has argued cases before state and federal courts and agencies, according to the NLRB. In 2008, he was appointed to the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals, an independent quasi-judicial agency responsible for review of certain rulings and compliance orders of the New York Department of Labor in matters including wage and hour law.

Pearce has taught at Cornell's School of Industrial Labor Relations Extension and is a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Prior to 2002, he practiced union-side labor and employment law at Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria, according to the NLRB.

Becker, 53, of Washington, D.C., is a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School who has been associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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