TODAY’S BRIEF: The NLRB and Why It’s Making Headlines This Month


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency founded by Congress in 1935 that protects the rights of private sector employees and works to improve wages and working conditions. This board was founded as a result of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively with their employers. It also protects nonunion groups of two or more employees (also known as “at will” employees) who try to bargain with their employer over wages, working conditions, and benefits. Employees are able to seek counsel through the NLRB if they feel that they were discriminated against by their employer.

In short, the NLRB conducts elections, investigates charges, facilitates settlements, decides cases and enforces orders.


The NLRB supposedly defends these rights in a fair and legal manner. However, since the board members are political appointees, many believe that the interpretation of the NLRA is conditional on the political party in power at the time of the decision. Cue President Trump. Trump recently chose two nominees for the NLRB: Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel who, according to the AFL-CIO, both have records of actively trying to strip working people of their freedoms.

Sound a little contradictory? We think so, too. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka seems to agree as well, saying “the resumes of both nominees appear to be in direct conflict with the mission of the NLRB.”

Kaplan, chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, has never practiced labor law. According to the AFL-CIO website, “his only related experience is in staffing a couple of Republican, anti-worker committees in Congress and helping run a series of oversight hearings criticizing the NLRB under President Barack Obama,” while also drafting legislation to overturn multiple NLRB actions that strengthened the freedom of working people.

Emanuel, a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, however, has a lengthy record of practicing labor law on behalf of employers, most recently at a union-busting law firm. He is also a member of the anti-working people legal organization, the Federalist Society. The AFL-CIO questions his ability to be impartial on cases surrounding NLRA issues.

Currently, the five-member board currently only has three members: two Democrats and one Republican (Philip Miscimarra, the sole chairman). The board operates by a simple majority, so if Kaplan and Emanuel win Senate confirmation, they would allow Miscimarra to reverse numerous policies that were put into place during the Obama administration.

Stay tuned for Senate confirmation or rejection of the nominees.


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