While the furor over the Trump administration’s close alliances with Americas No. 1 enemy Russia takes front and center, the administration is quietly launching another effort to gut worker protections, this time those afforded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The president has nominated two notoriously anti-worker, management-oriented men for the NLRB, an effort that could totally change what is supposed to be a neutral board when it comes to labor and management issues.
Trump’s dangerous picks are:
• William Emanuel, a management-side attorney and member of the conservative Federalist Society. He is also a shareholder of Littler Mendelson, an infamous union-busting firm that was most recently brought in by Long Island beer distributor Clare Rose to negotiate a contract full of pay cuts.
• Marvin Kaplan, a public-sector attorney who has never practiced labor law. His only related experience is in staffing a couple of Republican, anti-worker committees in Congress and helping run oversight hearings criticizing the NLRB under President Barack Obama.
According to a report in the New York Times, when Kaplan served as counsel for Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the committee’s witnesses “were skewed toward business representatives and other skeptics.”
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nominations July 19 on a party-line vote. The AFL-CIO filed its formal opposition, saying the two appear not to believe in the board’s mission.
“Neither man said anything at the confirmation hearing to give working people any confidence that they would vigorously enforce the National Labor Relations Act consistent with the law’s purpose of protecting workers’ right to organize and promote collective bargaining,” AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel said.
QUESTIONS ABOUT IMPARTIALITY
• To Emanuel – In the first hearing on the nominations on July 13,
Washington Senator Patty Murray asked Emanuel if he had ever represented a union or a worker. Emanuel said he had worked exclusively for management for his entire career.
“You just don’t do both,” he told her. “It’s not feasible.”
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren asked, “You have spent your career at one of the country’s most ruthless, union-busting law firms in the country. How can Americans trust you will protect workers’ rights when you’ve spent 40 years fighting against them?”
Emanuel claimed that he would be “objective” when making decisions for the agency.
• To Kaplan – He drafted legislation to overturn several NLRB actions that had strengthened the freedom of working people to join together.
Former NLRB chairman William Gould called Kaplan “unqualified and hostile to the law that he would interpret and administer,” adding, he would “undercut the integrity” of the board and that his appointment “would bring the political agenda of a Congress that hates the NLRB.”
Kaplan helped to develop The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, a law that would kill a labor board rule that shortened the amount of time between when the board authorizes a workplace unionization vote and when the vote actually takes place. Since 2014, it has been 11 days. But this act would increase it to at least 35, allowing more time for management to quash union organizing efforts. Fortunately, the legislation hasn’t passed in Congress yet.
Roughly 10 workers representing the pro-labor Good Jobs Nation stood up during the hearing, put blue tape over their mouths and walked out of the room in silent protest.
Groups like Good Jobs Nation are concerned about a pro-business majority in the agency amid Trump’s proposed cuts to the Labor Department.
Noted In These Times, “Trump is putting the NLRB in the position to undo a number of important Obama-era labor decisions.”
Trump’s NLRB could potentially reverse rulings that made it easier for small groups of workers to unionize, established grad students as employees, put charter school employees under NLRB jurisdiction, and held parent companies jointly liable for with franchise operators who break labor laws.
The NLRB is governed by a five-person board and a general counsel, all of whom are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. Board members are appointed to five-year terms, with one member’s term expiring each year. The general counsel is appointed to a four-year term. The general counsel acts as a prosecutor and the board acts as an appellate judicial body from decisions of administrative law judges.
Currently there are two Democrats and one Republican on the board, with two vacancies. If the Senate approves both of President Trump’s nominees, Republicans will have a 3-2 majority … and Katy bar the door with regard to fairness for working people and unions.
(Information from In These Times, AFL-CIO and National Law Journal.)