U.S. Senate tips labor board to Republican majority

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed William Emanuel, a veteran management-side labor lawyer, to the National Labor Relations Board, giving the agency a Republican majority widely expected to roll back recent decisions that business groups have said favored unions.

Emanuel, a partner with global labor-law firm Littler Mendelson, was confirmed 49-47 by the Republican-controlled Senate. President Donald Trump nominated Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, a lawyer and former Republican congressional aide, to the board earlier this year. Kaplan was confirmed in August.

The NLRB oversees union elections and disputes between private-sector employers, workers and unions.

Republicans will now have a 3-2 edge on the board. Business groups and many Republicans lawmakers have called on the agency to revisit significant changes to labor policy adopted during the administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

They include rules designed to speed up the union election process and a 2015 decision that made it easier for companies to be found to be joint employers and held liable for legal violations by contractors, staffing agencies and franchisees.

Emanuel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that during the Obama administration, the board strayed from its role as “a neutral umpire in labor disputes.”

“It’s time to get back to that important original mission,” he said.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said, however, that Emanuel should not join the NLRB after spending 40 years trying to prevent workers from organizing.

Emanuel has worked with Republicans in Congress and trade groups including the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers, and has defended employers for decades in NLRB cases.

He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, an influential group of lawyers credited with pushing Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch to U.S. Supreme Court.

At a Senate confirmation hearing in August, several Democrats questioned whether Emanuel would properly consider workers’ collective bargaining rights after long representing employers and trade groups.

He said he would be “honest and objective” as a board member, and noted that it would be unusual for a labor lawyer to have experience representing both unions and management.