NLRB Member Thumbing Nose at “Drain the Swamp” Agenda


A top labor regulator could be poised to quietly rule on matters involving past clients.

Senate Democrats this week hit out at National Labor Relations Board Member William Emanuel for only disclosing the names of those who recently paid at least $5,000 for his legal expertise.

The legislators noted that while these disclosures may satisfy Congressional requirements, President Trump initially made rigorous ethics demands on his nominees.

In a January executive order, days after his inauguration, Trump asked appointees to abstain from taking part “in any particular matter…directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients.”

The pledge is supposed to cover commercial affairs “for a period of two years from the date of my employment.” The President was elected last November, in part, on promises to fight corruption in Washington by “draining the swamp.”

During the confirmation process, Emanuel wasn’t required to disclose the current clientele of Littler Mendelson, the high profile union-busting law firm that he had worked for from 2004 until earlier this year.

Emmanuel did note that he expects to earn investment income from the firm for three years after his departure, though “the balance of the capital account is already established.”

When asked by Democrats about recusals during his confirmation, Emanuel referred to his Senate-mandated disclosure of clients who paid him $5,000 or more. They responded this week in a letter, noting the Trump executive order and regulations requiring federal officials to avoid preferential treatment and even the appearance of a conflict of interest

“Your involvement in any form in a case involving a client of your former law firm would clearly create, at minimum, the appearance of the kind of conflict of interest that this regulation prohibits,” they said.

The Democrats’ letter–spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren–was sent on Monday and released to the public on Tuesday. It was signed by 11 other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

According to the names Emanuel did identify in Senate disclosures, past clients include major corporations with substantial business before the NLRB. Nissan, FedEx and Uber are among those who sought out Emanuel’s legal services.

Democrats noted in their letter that there are currently more than 100 active NLRB cases involving clients disclosed by Emanuel.

In other news about workplace regulations, the House looks set on Tuesday to advance the repeal of an Obama-era rule–one that would have made it easier for labor organizers hoping to form unions at some of the largest corporations in the country.

The so-called Joint Employer rule was formulated in late 2014 by then-NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin. It was designed to close a gaping loophole in labor law permitting major companies to claim that franchisees and not corporate executives are solely responsible for management practices. There is currently litigation asking judges to nullify the regulation

On Tuesday, the Senate was also poised to approve of Griffin’s replacement. Peter Robb, like Emanuel, is a lawyer with years of experience working “aggressively with anti-union persuaders to help employers avoid labor organizing,” as Bloomberg noted.

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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.


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