Unions Call for Gigi Sohn Vote in Senate Lame-Duck Session

Gigi Sohn at February 2022 Senate confirmation hearing
FCC nominee Gigi Sohn at her confirmation hearing in February. (Image credit: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Various unions, communications and otherwise, are pushing Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to take whatever action necessary to use the lame-duck session of Congress to advance to a vote on the long-stalled nomination of Gigi Sohn for the vacant FCC seat.

”Our unions represent millions of workers in telecommunications, tech, and media as well as most sectors of the U.S. workforce,” a group of eight unions wrote to the senators this week, according to a copy of the letter (opens in new tab) supplied to Multichannel News. “We write to strongly support Gigi Sohn for the role of Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and urge swift action on her nomination.” 

Sohn would give Democrats the majority they earned when Joe Biden was elected president more than two years ago, allowing the FCC to tackle issues like network neutrality and broadband subsidy reform that the current political tie has prevented.

Also: Sen. Cantwell Targeted Over Second Sohn Hearing

“The FCC needs a fully seated commission in order to make critical decisions during a period of increased federal investment in broadband networks and digital equity initiatives,” the unions said.

Currently, Sohn's nomination remains stuck in the Senate Commerce Committee, so it would need a vote by the full Senate to discharge it from the panel, which tied in its vote to discharge the nomination. A tie means the nomination has not been recommended to the full Senate for a vote. Once it is discharged, Schumer would then have to schedule a separate vote on the actual nomination in the full Senate.

While Democrats have the technical majority in the 50-50 Senate due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, Schumer has not advanced the Sohn nomination, likely because not all 50 Democrats were on board.

There was talk that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) might have needed persuading after progressive Democrats hammered her — including paying for a billboard in her home state branding her “corrupt”  — during the net neutrality debate for not voting to repeal the 2017 FCC decision to eliminate the net neutrality rules. Those were rules that Sohn stumped for as an adviser to then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Joining in the union letter were the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers (AFT); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Communications Workers of America (CWA); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), representing FCC employees; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). ■

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.