NLRB, Deputy Labor Secretary Nominees Face Tough Questions from Senators

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nominees William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan and Deputy Labor Secretary nominee Patrick Pizzella were in the hot seat July 13 when Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee asked the candidates how they could represent workers given their pro-management pasts.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., criticized Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., for holding Emanuel and Kaplan’s hearings simultaneously with Pizzella’s, saying that Alexander was trying to ram through the nominations.

“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,” said Christine Owens, executive director with the National Employment Law Project, in a statement. 

However, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace’s chairwoman, Kristen Swearingen, said in a statement that her organization is “confident both nominees [to the NLRB] will interpret the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in a manner that is fair to workers, unions and employers.” The coalition is made up of more than 600 organizations representing millions of businesses nationwide.

Alexander said it was time to fill the positions at the NLRB and the DOL, noting that “Pizzella brings a wealth of relevant experience in both Democratic and Republican administrations.”

As for the NLRB nominees, Alexander said, “The two nominees today are for positions that have sat vacant—one for 23 months since President Obama declined to nominate a Republican for the then-minority seat, and the other for 11 months. My hope is that these nominees will restore some balance to the labor board. After years of playing the role of advocate [for unions], the NLRB should be restored to the role of neutral umpire.”

Emanuel and Kaplan Questioned

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Emanuel, a…

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