The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, attacked President Trump's nominees to fill the remaining open seats on the National Labor Relations Board on the eve of their first Senate hearing. The federation said the nominees' records "raise serious concerns" and appeared "to be in direct conflict" with the agency's mission.
The nominees, lawyers Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel, would give the five-member board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, a 3-2 Republican majority for the first time since President George W. Bush's administration. Kaplan is chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, a federal agency. Emanuel is a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, a management-side law firm that specializes in labor matters, often before the labor board. The nominees are scheduled to appear Thursday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"Marvin Kaplan has never practiced labor law, and his experience comes from crafting legislation for politicians to rig the rules against working people. William Emanuel has a long record of practicing labor law on behalf of employers, most recently at one of the most infamous union-busting law firms in the country. On their face, the résumés of both nominees appear to be in direct conflict with the mission of the NLRB," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Republicans and business groups have complained bitterly that the NLRB tilted heavily toward unions under former President Barack Obama. During a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing Wednesday, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., called them "unelected bureaucrats who have never owned a business or made a payroll (but who) launched an unprecedented attack on ... successful business models that so many rely on."
The NLRB's members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but the agency otherwise operates independently. It has a Republican chairman, Philip Miscimarra, but the other two remaining members, Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran, are Democratic nominees and the board operates by simple majority. Should Kaplan and Emanuel win Senate confirmation, they would allow Miscimarra to reverse numerous policies put in place in during the Obama administration.
"Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Emanuel are eminently qualified and will restore stability to our nation's workplaces and turn away from its past as a partisan advocate for organized labor to the neutral umpire it ought to be," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the HELP committee.
The Senate also will hear testimony from Patrick Pizzella, Trump's nominee to be deputy secretary of labor. Pizzella is acting chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which handles labor-management relations for federal employees. The pick has aroused controversy since Pizzella worked for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted in 2006 of attempting to bribe federal officials, among other crimes. Democrats are expected to press him on the connection.