House panel subpoenas NLRB documents on ethics violations
NLRB headuarters in Washington D.C. The board is defying congressional oversight. | Wikipedia, Geraldshields11, CC3.0.

WASHINGTON—Add the National Labor Relations Board to the list of Trump-controlled agencies that defy congressional oversight. It thus joins an infamous crowd, headed by GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s Justice Department.

Following 18 months of rebuffs and refusals to testify from NLRB Chair John Ring—a former right-wing GOP congressional aide infamous for drafting anti-worker bills—the House Education and Labor Committee’s majority Democrats subpoenaed NLRB documents dealing with how the agency imposed its joint employer rule.

The rule, promulgated by the NLRB’s three-white-man ultra-right members, overturned an Obama-era pro-worker joint employer decision. But the Republicans transformed the overturn into a federal regulation. That more or less permanently benefits bosses while leaving workers hung out to dry, trying to figure out who’s responsible for labor law-breaking: The local franchise-holder or the big corporate boss.

The Obama-era decision said corporate headquarters—think McDonald’s, since that’s where the case started—and local franchises are both responsible for obeying or breaking labor law. But the Trump-named board tossed that out, leaving workers to wonder.

The Trump board, which has only the three Republicans in presidential-party seats, plus two vacancies in seats reserved for the members of other parties, made sure its decision was set in stone. Federal rules are as tough, or tougher, to overturn than laws.

The committee Democrats want to know at whose behest the NLRB ruled, and also why it hired a private consultant to sift through and “categorize” the thousands of comments in received when it proposed the federal rule. Most of the comments were negative.

And it wants to know why NLRB member William Emanuel, who was a management-side labor lawyer whose Los Angeles firm represented companies challenging the Obama-era rule, refused to recuse himself after NLRB ethics officials publicly said Emanuel had a conflict of interest on the issue.

Ring refused to cooperate with the committee’s oversight. That forced the panel to subpoena the NLRB documents it demands, including internal memos about Emanuel’s role and the consultant’s activities. Those documents, the majority believes, include instructions on how to manipulate the comments “to achieve the desired outcome” of crafting the pro-boss rule.

“The committee is left to conclude the NLRB’s sole motivation for refusing to produce requested documents is to cover up misconduct,” Chair Bobby Scott, D-Va., said in announcing the subpoena.

“The only facts the committee has to consider, at this point, are those that are publicly available, which reveal processes tainted with conflicts of interest and prejudicial error.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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