Posted July 13, 2017
Washington, DC—Following is a statement from Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project:
Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee rushed three nominees for crucial positions at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Department of Labor (DOL) to a joint hearing over the objections of the Committee’s Ranking Member and 50 civil rights, labor, and community leaders, who had written committee leaders to urge that they postpone the hearings. Not only was the hearing held with only 10 work days for two of the nominees and four for the third, but the three nominees were afforded one joint hearing, diluting the time members could spend questioning each.
The nominees’ records on labor issues strongly suggest this rush to judgment was no accident. The nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Department of labor, Patrick Pizzella, previously worked closely with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, promoting policies allowing “Made in the USA” labels to be slapped on goods produced in the Northern Mariana Islands under slave-labor conditions. National Labor Relations Board nominees William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan both have long records of working to weaken worker protections under the National Labor Relations Act. They may also present substantial conflicts of interest given their writings and well-defined public opinions on many of the pressing issues that the NLRB will face in the short-term—including how NLRA elections should be conducted, forced arbitration, the proper interpretation of the joint employer doctrine, and the proper composition of bargaining units.
The posts for which Pizzella, Emanuel and Kaplan have been nominated are crucial positions that can have wide-ranging impact on the rights of workers across the country. Senators’ responsibility to advise and consent on nominations means nothing if they don’t have time to adequately research nominees’ records, aren’t able to pose questions for the record in advance of the hearing should they so desire, and don’t have ample opportunity to fully question nominees at a hearing, rather than truncating their questions because of a combined hearing.
The hearing itself demonstrated why none of these nominees should be rushed through the confirmation process. If confirmed, Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Emanuel will have responsibility to protect workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act to act collectively to assert their interests, bargain with their employers over the terms and conditions of their work, and challenge unfair labor practices. Mr. Pizzella, nominated for the second highest position at DOL, will essentially be Chief Operating Officer of the department tasked with protecting a wide range of core labor rights, including proper payment under the wage and hour laws, the civil rights of federal contract workers, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, just to name a few.
At the hearing, the nominees repeatedly refused to offer straightforward answers to simple questions posed by Senators and provided no real assurances that they are committed to protecting the rights of workers, as opposed to the interests of employers and corporations. They gave no indication that they will avoid the significant substantive conflicts of interest they are bringing into these jobs. Regrettably, they gave America’s workers no reason to believe that they will be in their corners.
Based on these nominees’ public records and today’s hearing, NELP opposes their confirmations. Continuing to rush through these nominations, which HELP committee leadership seems determined to do, serves no useful governance purpose and only makes it more likely that our nation’s workers, particularly those most vulnerable to exploitation, will pay the price for this abdication of the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent on major nominations.