On September 25, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed veteran management-side labor attorney William Emanuel as the fifth member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Emanuel, who has practiced labor law for more than four decades, gives the Board a 3-2 Republican majority.
This is the first time Republicans have controlled the Board since 2007.
William Emanuel’s Background
William Emanuel received his Bachelor’s Degree from Marquette University and his law degree from Georgetown University. He is a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and a member of the Federalist Society.
Emanuel has most recently practiced law with Littler Mendelson P.C. in Los Angeles. Before joining Littler, he also practiced with Jones Day, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, and Musick Peeler & Garrett LLP.
He has served as a contributing editor of The Developing Labor Law, which is a leading treatise on the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
In his confirmation hearing, Emanuel noted:
“In addition to my professional experience in the field of labor law, I also understand the workplace from a practical standpoint. During my college and high school years, I worked as a railroad switchman, brewery worker, construction worker, bartender, grocery clerk, and in several other jobs.”
Opposition to Appointment
The Senate confirmed Emanuel by a 49-47 party-line vote.
As with the recent confirmation of NLRB Member Marvin Kaplan, Democrats opposed Emanuel as anti-workers. Just before the vote, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted: “A man who spent 40 yrs union busting has no business on the NLRB.”
Pro-labor groups, including major labor unions, also opposed Emanuel’s confirmation. In a July 18, 2017 letter to the Senate, the AFL-CIO’s Government Affairs Department wrote:
“Emanuel has exclusively represented employers, most recently at the notorious union-busting law firm Littler Mendelson. He confirmed at his confirmation hearing that he has never represented a worker or union in an employment matter–not even in pro bono work. . . . Neither [Emanuel nor Kaplan] said anything at the confirmation hearing to give working people any confidence that they would vigorously enforce the NLRA consistent with the law’s purpose of protecting workers’ right to organize and promoting collective bargaining.”
On the other hand, pro-business groups welcome Emanuel joining the Board. Sean P. Redmond, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative stated, “Now that the NLRB has a new majority that is unlikely to be as slanted toward organized labor, the Board will have plenty of work to do to restore balance to labor law.”
Expected Impact of Emanuel’s Confirmation
There is every reason to believe that both William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan will adhere to traditional Republican principles on key labor issues. This will ultimately lead to reversal of significant Obama-era NLRB decisions affecting millions of employers and employees. However, because the NLRB members make policy by adjudicating cases brought before them rather than rulemaking, the policy shifts will not be immediate.
Moreover, there are still two positions that President Trump must fill before the NLRB fully transitions.
General Counsel Richard Griffin, a holdover Obama appointee, will leave office when his term expires at the beginning of November. Trump has nominated management-side labor attorney Peter Robb to replace Griffin.
In addition, NLRB Chair Phillip Miscimarra’s term will end in December. He has announced that he will not accept another term. President Trump has not publicly named a candidate for that position. However, early reports suggest that attorney John Ring may be the frontrunner for the Board position. Trump will choose between Emanuel, Kaplan, and Miscimarra’s replacement to serve as the Board’s new Chair.
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