One of Donald Trump’s picks to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could be disqualified from ruling on disputes arising from one the most high profile ongoing organizing efforts.
William Emanuel said this week, in ethics filings, that he will recuse himself for two years in matters involving Nissan, among other clients. He reiterated the position, when prompted, at a hearing held Thursday before the Senate Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
United Auto Workers filed a petition with the NLRB earlier this week, on behalf of Nissan workers at a plant in Canton, Miss.–to proceed to an election to certify that the workers want to be represented by the union.
If workers vote to be represented by the UAW, it will create a bargaining unit of more than 4,000 employees at a plant where more than 6,000 people are on the payroll.
The UAW has tried, in recent years, without much success, to organize automotive plants located in the south. The organizing drive at the Canton factory garnered national attention earlier this year, when it involved a march and a rally featuring civil rights activists, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and actor Danny Glover.
In a press released issued Tuesday, UAW officials said that workers in Canton moved to hold an election “citing a pattern of labor abuses by Nissan against its predominantly African-American workforce.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Emanuel will have to sit out disputes involving Nissan because he represented the company while working for Littler Mendelson — a law-firm known for its union-busting expertise.
The UAW has already filed a number of unfair labor practice complaints against Nissan — filings that could themselves delay the union election, according to the AP.
Unfair labor practices are first brought before an administrative law judge. They move to the NLRB, if one party appeals the decision.
The board — an independent agency with five members — is currently staffed by two Democrats and one Republican. Emanuel and another Republican nominee, Mavin Kaplan, will tip the balance in favor of the GOP, if confirmed.
Both Kaplan and Emanuel appeared before the Senate HELP Committee on Thursday, for a joint confirmation hearing. Emanuel was also pressed to recuse himself in cases involving certain issues, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned the nominee about past musings.
Warren noted that Emanuel has written, as a scholar, about: “whether employers can require workers to waive their rights to class actions, whether employers can prevent union workers from protesting on their property, and what the boundaries of a bargaining unit should be.”
“Some of your views are pretty extreme, and go to the heart of cases that the NLRB might decide,” she said.
Emanuel replied, stating that recusal is only required if he is asked to rule on “cases involving my law firm.”
“I do not believe, however, that recusal would apply to issues. The fact that I may have advised or written a brief on an issue in the past doesn’t mean I would have to recuse myself on that issue,” he said.
Warren responded, claiming that it wasn’t any legal work or advice that would prompt recusal, but scholarly opinions indicating a bias.
“I’m just saying you have made it clear that you have prejudged in three areas where you put your name on it,” she said.