It might not get as much press coverage as other Donald Trump administration calamities, but the U.S. president is set to appoint a known union buster to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), push the body to a Republican majority and reverse Obama-era protections that rankle Big Business.
July 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)
Committee held hearings on Trump’s two NLRB selections and his
deputy labor secretary pick. All three of these men are expected to
Emanuel, one of Trump’s NLRB appointees, is a management-side
attorney and a 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.
being selected, Emanuel disclosed 49
former clients and declared he would recuse himself for up to a year
if any of the companies found themselves in front of the NLRB. The
list included multiple businesses that have clashed with the labor
board, including JPMorgan Chase Bank, MasTec Inc, Nissan and Uber.
ongoing skirmishes with the NLRB have, perhaps, been the most
publicized. At the end of 2016, the ride-share company battled with
the NLRB after the agency sent out subpoenas aimed
at gleaning information about whether Uber drivers were statutory
2016, Emanuel authored an amicus brief that defended class-action
waivers in employment contracts. Workers often depend on class
actions to fight sexual and racial discrimination, and their
existence is an important part of upholding wage laws. The NLRB ruled
that such waivers were illegal under Obama.
was asked about Littler Mendelson’s anti-union work by
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“You have spent your career
at one of the country’s most ruthless, union-busting law firms in
the country,” she said. “How can Americans trust you will protect
workers’ rights when you’ve spent 40 years fighting against
response, Emanuel claimed that he would be objective whenever making
decisions for the agency.
is not the only appointee raising concern among workers’ rights
advocates. Marvin Kaplan, another Trump nominee to the NLRB, is a
public-sector attorney and current counsel to the commissioner for
the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Kaplan pick
excites business executives and their advocates, who envisioned him
helping overturn Obama-era labor regulations.
the time of the announcement, Kristen Swearingen, chair of the
anti-union group Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, declared that
“Marvin Kaplan will begin to restore balance to an agency whose
recent and radical decisions and disregard for long standing
precedent have injected uncertainty into labor relations to the
detriment of employees, employers and the economy.”
excitement is well-founded. Kaplan served as counsel for Republicans
on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The New
York Times reports,
“The committee held hearings during his tenure scrutinizing
prominent NLRB actions in which the witnesses skewed toward business
representatives and other skeptics.” Kaplan also helped develop
Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, legislation 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, the number has been set at 11 days.
But this act would increase it to at least 35, thus allowing more
time for union efforts to be squashed. The legislation hasn’t
passed in congress yet.
do not stop at the NLRB. Trump’s Labor Department nominee is
Patrick Pizzella, a Federal Labor Relations Authority Member who was
grilled by Minnesota Senator Al Franken on his ties to the infamous
lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Pizzella worked with
Abramoff during the 1990s to exempt the
Northern Mariana Islands from federal labor regulations.
Senate has only been in session for 10 days since the Pizzella and
Kaplan nominations, and only four days since Emanuel’s. A group of
civil rights and labor organizations sent the committee
a letter asking
for the hearings to be postponed. During her opening remarks, Sen.
Patty Murray called Trump’s attempt to jam through the nominees
without proper oversight “unprecedented.”
10 workers representing the pro-labor organization Good
Jobs Nation stood up during Thursday’s 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 amidst Trump’s proposed
cuts to the Labor Department.
is putting the NLRB in the position to undo a number of important
Obama-era labor decisions. His 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.
Writing about the imminent anti-union crackdown on this website in
May, Shaun Richman wrote,
“Unions and their allies should be convening research teams to plot
out a campaign of regulatory and judicial activism. That work should
in the hearing, Washington Senator Patty Murray asked Emanuel if he
had ever represented a union or a worker. Emanuel explained that he
worked exclusively for management for his entire career. "You
just don't do both,” he told her. “It's not feasible."
>> The article above was written by Michael Arria, and is reprinted from In These Times.