Under the union-friendly Biden Administration, the National Labor Relations Board has become increasingly pro-labor. Soon, members appointed by former President Trump will be replaced. As a result, the board will soon have a labor-friendly majority.
Joyce Goldstein, labor lawyer, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss recent changes to the NLRB and what they mean to the labor movement.
A labor-friendly labor board
President Biden’s first NLRB decision was to remove Trump appointed General Counsel Peter Robb and nominate Jennifer Abruzzo, a former Acting General Counsel of the board. She was confirmed in July by the U.S. Senate in a contentious 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
Abruzzo’s confirmation to the board is a big deal, Goldstein stated, as great changes for unions are sure to come.
Abruzzo issued a memo outlining her aspirations for the board. Her first focus is to re-examine issues the board overruled during the Trump presidency, including confidentiality agreements, separation agreements, discharges due to union activity and jurisdiction over religious groups. The second focus involves several long-standing issues, including stipulations on who is considered an independent contractor and the right to strike and picket. The third focus is procedural issues.
She has a big focus and people expect her to bring the board back in line to a pro-union stance, away from its focus on big business during the Trump administration, Goldstein said.
However, Abruzzo can only pick and choose what the board focuses on, Goldstein pointed out. She is not a prosecutor. She cannot change policy — it will be left to the board itself to choose if and when it wants to change policy.
Labor board to become a Democratic majority
The board is set to undergo a significant change, Goldstein said. Though the board has not had a full five members for the last several years, that will not be the case under the Biden administration.
Biden named Lauren McFerran Chairwoman of the board. His nomination, Democrat Gwynne Wilcox, was confirmed by the Senate in July to a seat that sat empty for three years. Wilcox is the first African American woman to sit on the board. Biden also nominated David Prouty to replace William Emanuel when his term expires this month. Prouty was confirmed by the Senate last month. Both Wilcox and Prouty have strong ties to organized labor and have represented unions previously.
By next month, the board will have five sitting members and a Democratic majority, which is good news for unions, Goldstein said.