Senate confirms controversial Trump pick to labor board

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The Senate on Wednesday confirmed one of President Trump’s nominees to fill one of the vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Senate in a 50-48 party-line vote approved the nomination of Marvin Kaplan to the board that’s responsible for resolving labor disputes and protecting workers’ collective bargaining rights in the private sector.

Trump’s nomination of Kaplan had sparked controversy, with Democrats questioning his knowledge of labor law and whether he would defend workers’ rights on the board.

Before a committee vote earlier this month, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) raised concerns about his lack of legal experience before the NLRB. During his confirmation hearing, she said he confused basic labor issues and decisions.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized Kaplan for the time he spent as a House staffer, where he worked on measures to strip workers of their right to organize and join unions in their workplace.

“After eight months, the Republicans are about to go on vacation, but not before they jam the NLRB with a new anti-worker nominee,” she said.

“The biggest problem in Washington is that this place works great for giant employers and for giant corporations with armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but workers and their families just get ignored.”

Kaplan now serves as chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent federal agency charged with settling contested citations and penalties that businesses receive following an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection.

Prior to the commission, Kaplan served as counsel, first to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and then to the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee. 

William Emanuel, a labor lawyer at Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles, has been tapped to fill a second open seat on the board, but the Senate has yet to vote on his nomination.

Republicans, however, are anxious to get the two vacancies filled.

“The board hasn’t had a full five members in nearly two years — one seat has been open for 23 months since President Obama declined to nominate a Republican for the then-minority seat, and the other seat for 11 month,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Examiner on Wednesday.

“We need a full board — and I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so.”

If Emanuel is confirmed, the balance of power on the board will shift from Democrats to Republicans for the first time in years. It’s a change welcomed by conservatives, who have long argued the board unfairly favors unions over employers.

Republicans and business groups have been fighting a 2015 NLRB ruling, which changed the definition of a joint-employer and made franchisors potentially liable for labor law violations committed by their franchisees. They have also opposed the board’s 2014 rules to speed-up union elections.

Tags Elizabeth Warren Lamar Alexander Patty Murray

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