President Donald Trump’s two nominees to fill the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) testified before the Senate Thursday, where they were lambasted by Democrats.
“As I look at your records, I see patterns of anti-worker, anti-union, even anti-NLRB measures,” Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said to William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, Trump’s choices to fill two openings on the NLRB.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions also heard from Patrick Pizzella, Trump’s nominee for deputy secretary of labor.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander urged the committee to rise above partisan politics and move swiftly to confirm the nominees, but it became clear that Senate Democrats had no such intention.
Murray called the hearing “rushed and unprecedented,” explaining that the Department of Labor (DOL) and the NLRB are “vastly different agencies.”
The NLRB is an independent federal agency created to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which set labor standards for American workers in 1934. If both Emanuel and Kaplan are confirmed, the NLRB will have a Republican majority for the first time since June 2007.
When Republicans re-establish control, it is expected to roll back Obama-era policies seen as favorable to big labor. Democratic senators went on the defensive during Thursday’s hearing.
“I’m very concerned that President Trump is once again breaking his campaign promises of putting workers first and actually ignoring the core mission of the NLRB,” Murray said. “I have strong reservations about your ability to protect those workers now since you’ve spent a career fighting against them.”
Emanuel, a veteran labor lawyer, is currently a Los Angeles attorney with Littler Mendelson. He also has experience supporting employers in cases before the board. He is a member of the influential Federalist Society, which has advised the president on a number of key issues, including the selection of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“You have spent your career at one of the country’s most ruthless, union-busting law firms in the country,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said to Emanuel. “How can Americans trust you will protect workers rights when you’ve spent 40 years fighting against them.”
Kaplan, who Trump announced in June, is currently counsel at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. He has previously worked for Republican lawmakers as an attorney for the education and oversight committees.
Murray criticized Kaplan’s time as a committee staffer. “You prepared and you actually staffed hearings where your employers railed against the NLRB and its core mission,” Murray said.
Industry groups, including the National Restaurant Association, hailed the selection since Emanuel has said he would help repair misguided rulings from Obama’s NLRB.
“Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel will restore balance and fairness to the National Labor Relations Board,” Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Board is currently reviewing issues including joint employment liability, that impact restaurants and other small businesses, and we urge swift confirmation of these qualified nominees.”
Obama’s NLRB made it easier for contractors to organize. The board has also broadened the joint employer rule, which franchises say exposes them to unreasonable liabilities. (RELATED: Congresswoman Serves Up Popcorn To Highlight A Big Threat To Expanding Small Businesses)
Shortly after taking office, Trump named the sole Republican member of the board, Philip A. Miscimarra as acting chairman. Miscimarra was a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School before joining the NLRB as a member.
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