The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday advanced President Trump's picks to fill two open seats on the National Labor Relations Board, the government's main labor law enforcement agency.
The votes for Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel were along strict party lines, reflecting the fact that the nominees are expected to shift the direction of the five-member board, which was known for its aggressive pro-organizing stance under former President Barack Obama.
"My hope is that filling the two open seats on the National Labor Relations Board will restore the board to its intended purpose of acting as a neutral umpire after years of playing the role of advocate. It is important to American employees and employers alike that the Senate quickly confirm Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Emanuel to bring balance to the board and stability to our nation's workplaces," said committee Chairman Lamar Alexander R-Tenn.
Alexander noted that one seat had been vacant for nearly a year and the other for nearly two years, which he said was because "President Obama declined to nominate a Republican for the then-minority seat."
The nominees will go to the full Senate. Should they be confirmed, they would give the board a Republican majority for the first time since President George W. Bush's administration. The NLRB's members are nominated by the president but the agency otherwise operates independently. It currently 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.
Kaplan is chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, a federal agency. Prior to that he was a Republican staffer for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Emanuel is a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, a management-side law firm that specializes in labor matters, often before the labor board.
Liberal groups oppose the picks, arguing that the nominees had shown hostility to the board's mission of enforcing the National Labor Relations Act. "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 promoting collective bargaining," wrote William Samuel, director of government affairs for the AFL-CIO, in an open letter to lawmakers Tuesday.