Trump labor board nominees duck tough questions

July 14, 2017 9:41 AM CDT BY MARK GRUENBERG

Left to right: Senators Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, Chris Murphy. | All parts of this photo credited to AP

WASHINGTON — In a multi-hour exhibition of evasion, Republican President Donald Trump’s two nominees to vacant National Labor Relations Board seats spent several hours before the Senate Labor Committee ducking, bobbing and weaving and generally avoiding answering tough labor law questions from the committee’s Democrats.

But despite that performance at their July 13 confirmation hearing, the GOP-majority panel and the GOP-run Senate will likely approve veteran management-side labor law attorney William Emanuel of Los Angeles and Marvin Kaplan, a former top GOP congressional staffer on labor issues, by party-line votes. The committee will vote on them on July 19.

Trump nominated the two to fill vacant seats on the 5-person board, which oversees and judges labor-management cases in most of the private sector and some public sector firms and enterprises. Their confirmation would give the board a 3–2 GOP majority, a prospect that the radical right and their business allies anticipate with glee — and that workers do not.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the “track records” of Kaplan and Emanuel “raise serious concerns about their commitment to the rights and protections guaranteed by our labor laws and enforced by the NLRB.

“Kaplan has never practiced labor law, and his experience comes from crafting legislation for politicians to rig the rules against working people. 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 appear to be in direct conflict with the mission of the NLRB.

“A fair and functioning NLRB can protect the freedom of working people to negotiate a fair return on our work so we can provide for our families. A partisan, ideologically driven NLRB can further empower corporations and CEOs to take away our freedoms at work,” he warned.

Democratic senators also were leery of the two. “There are a lot of folks who think that when you two are put on the board, the fix is in,” Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., told them.

“I haven’t found one instance where you supported the NLRB” or workers in arguing cases, in academic writing or in bargaining, top committee Democrat Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Emanuel. “In labor law, you just don’t do both” labor and management work, he replied.

Emanuel and Kaplan gave frequent answers of “I would make decisions case by case,” or “I would consult with fellow board members” or “it depends on the facts,” or all of the above to pointed questions from committee Democrats. Both pledged to enforce U.S. labor law, but went no further than that — and sometimes even backtracked.

A skeptical Murray said both men flunk. “As I look at your records, I see anti-union, anti-worker and even anti-NLRB stands,” she told them. “Do you believe the National Labor Relations Act is meant to encourage collective bargaining?” she later asked Emanuel.

He replied that encouraging collective bargaining is the goal of “the first section” of the original 1935 law, “but the 1947 statute” — the pro-business GOP-passed Taft-Hartley Act — “protects the rights of employers, protects the rights of individual employees against unions and also protects the rights of the public in disputes” between workers and bosses. “I haven’t worked to discourage the practice of collective bargaining,” Emanuel contended.

That didn’t satisfy Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. She called his big firm, Littler Mendelson of Los Angeles, “a noted union-buster.” She added that “Your entire career has been to discourage union membership. How can people trust you?” Emanuel replied he “practices traditional labor law” there.

Emanuel did pledge to… Read more here.