On April 11, 2018, the U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed management-side labor attorney John Ring as the fifth member of the National Labor Relations Board. Ring fills the seat vacated in December 2017 by former Board Chairman Philip Miscimarra. The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines. Ring, a Republican, was a partner with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP before his confirmation.
Following Ring’s confirmation, the White House announced that he would replace Marvin Kaplan as Chair of the NLRB. President Trump had just named Kaplan the Chair in December. Despite the unusual demotion, Kaplan confirmed he would remain on the Board.
In addition to Kaplan, Ring joins members William Emanuel, Mark Pearce, and Lauren McFerran on the Board.
Other than formally making Ring the Chair, no further changes to the Board’s composition are expected until Member Pearce’s term expires on August 27, 2018. Traditionally, no more than three members of the Board have represented the same political party. However, that is not dictated by law. Thus, it will be interesting to see what the White House does regarding Pearce’s seat.
Republicans now hold 3-2 majority control of the Board. This foretells a continued shift away from pro-labor decisions by the Obama-era NLRB. The Republicans recently held the majority for just a short time before Miscimarra’s term expired. They issued several significant reversals in the last days of his term. (Read more in 2017 NLRB Buzzer Beaters.)
However, the Republican majority still faces a hurdle that may slow the anticipated shift in federal labor law. Member Emanuel’s vote in one of the December 2017 reversals (regarding the joint employer standard) created controversy based on an alleged conflict of interest. Emanuel’s former firm had represented a party in the case that was overruled. The Board subsequently excluded Emanuel and vacated the decision in which he had participated, reverting to the Obama-era precedent.
Emanuel, who had been a partner at national labor law firm Littler Mendelson, may face similar conflicts in many other cases. Ring could also struggle with conflict issues given Morgan Lewis’ substantial client list.
More About John Ring
Before his confirmation, John Ring was a co-leader of Morgan Lewis’ labor/management relations practice.