By Grace Aylmer, Public Citizen
Marvin Kaplan is being rushed through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nomination process faster than you can hire and fire Anthony Scaramucci. Kaplan, currently counsel at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, and previously employed by House Republicans on the education and oversight committees, received a swift and enthusiastic backing from the anti-worker U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
This past February, the Chamber outlined what it believes to be the ten most pressing policies that require action at the NLRB and the many instances in which the Obama-era NLRB allegedly “stack[ed] the deck against employers.” The list covers a range of anti-worker topics, many of which Kaplan boasts about having experience in on his Linkedin account, including his “efforts to fight DOL overtime rules.” The overtime rule would provide overtime pay to millions of workers and would have the salutary benefit of exerting upward pressure on wages for middle income Americans whose salaries have long been stagnant. Kaplan also boasts about drafting the “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” a piece of legislation the Chamber backed, which sought to undo the NLRB rule that cut the waiting time for union elections down to as few as 10 days.
While the Chamber’s labor policy wish list touches on a plethora of issues, it focuses most intently on collective bargaining. Collective bargaining, an effective means of raising wages (no wonder the Chamber hates it!), is the process by which workers, with their unions, negotiate contracts with their employers. Terms of employment that are oftentimes covered in collective bargaining include wages, benefits, hours, worker safety and a slew of other protections. The NLRB is frequently asked to rule on disputes relating to collective bargaining in addition to many other high-profile labor topics, including examination of “joint employer” relationships, and will be looked to to make a determination as to whether or not graduate students should be considered employees with the right to unionize.
Kaplan isn’t the only bad actor being nominated to the NLRB. William Emanuel of the law firm Littler Mendelson, has also been nominated, and has also received support from the Chamber. Kaplan and Emanuel, both nominated at the end of June both had hearings less than 3 weeks later, one of the speediest nomination processes thus far in the Trump administration.
Trump, the Chamber, and their GOP allies in the House and Senate have all complained that under Obama, the NLRB imposed what they deem to be burdensome regulations on businesses. Their criticisms of the NLRB indicate that they fundamentally misunderstand that one of the major functions of the board is to enforce the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, guaranteeing the right of most private sector employees to organize.
It comes as no surprise that the Chamber is asking for a swift confirmation process. Randy Johnson, senior vice president of labor, immigration, and employee benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, refers to Kaplan as a “balanced and thoughtful” individual, going on to say that the Chamber has “worked with Marvin over the years and he will be a great addition to the NLRB.” Which, when translated out of Chamber-speak, means something more along the lines of, “this is just the guy we need to achieve those ten policy goals!” The Chamber’s support for each of these nominees is rooted in its desire to destroy worker protections in an effort to protect corporate profits; the speed at which the nomination process is occurring just goes to show how antsy the Chamber and its GOP allies are to strip workers of their rights and hand over even more power to giant corporations.