Photo By: 
Salisbury Post

How Trump's Swamp Ruined the NLRB

An NLRB member flouting ethics laws shows he is still working for corporate bosses, not the people

Kris LaGrange's picture
Sep 16, 2020

House Democrats are issuing subpoenas to compel the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hand over important documents detailing potential ethics violations within the board. The move, which is being done by the House Committee on Education and Labor, was initiated after Trump appointed NLRB’s chairman John Ring repeatedly refused to hand over the documents.

The issue began after the NLRB attempted to roll back the Obama-era expansion of the joint-employer rule, which allows multiple people to be liable as employers such as a franchisee and parent company like McDonalds. In 2017 a case, Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors came before the board to challenge the joint employer rule. In the case, William Emanuel, a Trump-appointee to the board, cast the deciding vote in favor of repealing the rule. Then after the vote, the NLRB’s Inspector General said that Emanuel should have recused himself from the case and threw out the decision. This was because he worked for the law firm, Littler Mendelson, that was involved in a previous case, Browning-Ferris, which was the basis for forming the joint-employer rule.

This wasn’t the only time Emanuel’s work for Little Mendelson became an ethical issue. Last December, he once again cast the deciding vote in a case to approve a favorable settlement between McDonald’s and NLRB general counsel Peter Robb. The settlement was rejected by a judge, but the board overturned the judge’s decision with Emanuel’s help. McDonald’s has worked with Littler Mendelson for years, using them to fend off protests around the Fight for $15. Workers had asked Emanuel to recuse himself, but he refused.

It is rallies like this that Trump and appointees are trying to ban

After Democrats took over the House, they began looking into complaints against Emanuel. Concerns began to rise further after the NLRB issued an unusual memo on its recusal process last November, right before the McDonald’s decision. The memo said that a board could “insist on participating” in a case even when ethics officers had determined that the member should be recused. This memo essentially allowed Emanuel to continue being the deciding vote on cases where he had a conflict of interest.

With a secret memo floating around that gave an NLRB member the ability to flout ethics laws, House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott began demanding answers and asked the NLRB to send the committee a copy of the letter. NLRB Chairman Ring refused initially and then came to a “compromise.” He said he would let House staffers see the memo, but only under lock and key at the NLRB and only after the McDonald’s case was finished. The problem is that the workers have appealed the case, meaning that the case is still open and the House is still barred from seeing the letter.

If Ring is running a clean ship at the NLRB, he shouldn’t be afraid of letting the House see the letter. However, that is not the case. NLRB Chairman Ring is trying to cover up the fact that Trump appointed a union-buster to the board who is now doing the bidding of his former bosses. Under any other administration, this wouldn’t fly, but once again Trump appointees are flouting the law and using their government positions to help their friends get rich.

Sign up for our e-Newsletter!