The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 20, 2018

Senate party-line vote gives GOP majority on labor board

By The Building Tradesman



By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer


WASHINGTON (PAI)—By a strictly party-line vote – all 50 voting Republicans for, all 46 voting Democrats and both independents against – the Senate gave Republicans a National Labor Relations Board majority by naming corporate attorney John Ring to its sole vacant seat.

Organized labor did not flatly oppose Ring’s nomination, but questioned whether he could set aside his pro-corporate track past to implement federal labor law’s goals of encouraging collective bargaining and labor-management peace.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, yoked the Ring nomination to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Patrick Pizzella to the Labor Department’s No. 2 job, deputy secretary.

“Think about this. They” – Ring and Pizzella – “have spent their careers working to strip workers of their rights, defending corporations that are accused of mistreating workers, and trying to undermine collective bargaining rights,” Brown said. “Mr. Pizzella worked for disgraced former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff. They worked on the same lobbying team at the law firm of Preston Gates. They have been busy through their professional careers -- and very well paid to do it -- trying to keep workers from being protected by federal labor laws. 

"I know everyone is entitled to representation, but when you devote your life to keeping workers from having collective bargaining, keeping workers from working in a safe workplace, and defending companies who are accused of mistreating workers, it makes you wonder."

The NLRB now has a 2-2 partisan tie and Ring would break it. “Why is this nominee being forced through without also filling the Democratic seat that is about to be vacated” by former chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, a Buffalo labor lawyer, in late August, asked Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., top Democrat on the Senate Labor Committee. “I have to believe it is because special corporate interests are putting immense pressure on my colleagues across the aisle to confirm someone who will advocate for corporations, no matter the cost to workers.”

Ring has an extensive track record at the corporate law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius representing employers before the NLRB, other agencies, and in the courts, said AFL-CIO Legislative Director William Samuel wrote senators.

“But to our knowledge," Samuels said, "he has no experience representing working people seeking to exercise their rights. If confirmed, he would be the third Republican member of the five-member NLRB, thus restoring the majority’s ability to reverse precedent and take other actions destructive of workers’ rights.” 

Murray called Ring “a corporate lawyer representing the interests of companies, not workers. He opposed reforms that stop companies from unnecessarily delaying union elections. He encouraged the board to undermine long-established rights, including the right for workers to have co-worker representation in disciplinary interviews. I find it difficult to believe he will advocate now for workers, as this board desperately needs to be doing.

"This administration has spent more than a year undermining workers' rights and making it easier for corporations to take advantage of them. The board, under Republican control, has been leading that charge by ignoring longstanding practices in a rush to overturn precedents that protect workers. At a time when corporations in this country and the richest among us are getting richer and working families are left behind, it is so critical today the board be independent and able to advocate for workers.”