When the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Monday in a case involving soda bottler Noel Canning Corp., presidential appointment power will be the main dispute, but the case will also put on display one of Washington's most politically polarizing agencies - the National Labor Relations Board.
Created nearly 80 years ago to supervise union elections and protect workers' rights to organize, the NLRB is a battleground for pro-labor Democrats and pro-management Republicans.
Deep disagreement between the two sides over the NLRB's role - and over organized labor itself - makes disputes involving the board uncommonly bitter and subjects its agenda to constant reshaping, depending on which party controls the White House.
"It's no accident ... that this major constitutional showdown is occurring over appointments to the board," said AFL-CIO General Counsel Craig Becker, a former board member.Monday's case began as a labor dispute. The NLRB found in February 2012 that Noel Canning, a Pepsi bottler in Yakima, Washington, had reneged on a verbal contract during union negotiations. The company appealed to the courts, attracting the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, conservative interest groups and Republican leaders in Congress. The case evolved into a constitutional challenge to the president's power to make appointments to key posts without Senate confirmation.