03.01.18

At Hearing, Murray Questions National Labor Relations Board Nominee’s Willingness to Stand Up for Workers

Senate HELP Committee held hearing on President Trump’s nominee for National Labor Relations Board, John Ring

 

In opening remarks, Senator Murray highlighted need to give workers a fair shot by protecting workers’ rights and getting back to core mission of nation’s labor laws

 

Murray also cited concerns with recent Board actions, including potential conflict of interest violations by Member Emanuel

 

Mr. Ring has spent career fighting against workers’ rights, has helped corporations skirt responsibility of providing workers with protections

 

Additionally, as more and more women and men are coming forward and sharing their stories, Murray called for the need for the Senate HELP Committee to hold hearings on workplace sexual harassment

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered the following opening statement at the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee for the National Labor Relations Board, John Ring.

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted the importance of unions and workers’ ability to organize and collectively negotiate for better pay and working conditions, and questioned Mr. Ring’s willingness to stand up for workers following his career as a corporate management lawyer. Senator Murray also voiced concern about a number of controversial actions made by the Republican-controlled Board, including Member Emanuel’s participation in actions that potentially violated his ethics pledge, and General Counsel Robb’s proposal to drastically reorganize the Board.

 

Senator Murray also called for the need for the HELP Committee to hold a hearing on workplace sexual harassment, echoing requests from Democratic members of the Committee six weeks ago.

 

Key excerpts of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Unions and collective bargaining helped create the middle class and helped millions of families become economically secure in the 20th century. But over the past few decades, our economy has started to favor big corporations and those at the top. Corporate special interests have sought to undermine unions and workers’ ability to negotiate with their employers. And as union membership has declined, we’ve seen more and more workers fall behind, struggling with stagnant wages and no real voice in the workplace—all while big corporations make record profits. So, in order to rebuild the middle class, we need to get back to the core mission of our nation’s labor laws, and give workers a fair shot to get ahead.”

 

“Given all this, the last-minute, 11th-hour decisions to disempower workers, the proposals to reorganize the board’s operations in favor of big corporations, and the conflicts of interest already identified by the Inspector General—it’s clear the last thing our nation’s labor board needs is another champion for those at the top. Now, Mr. Ring, you have spent your career as a corporate lawyer representing the interests of companies—not workers. You opposed the Board’s reforms that stop companies from unnecessarily delaying union elections. And you have encouraged the Board to undermine long-established rights like the right to coworker representation in disciplinary interviews. You have even written advice for corporations on how to avoid providing workers with protections—and how to deny them their rights. After years of aiding corporate management in skirting worker protections—I find it difficult to believe you will be able to uphold the core mission of the NLRA.”

 

Full text of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

 

“In light of the President’s ongoing efforts to undermine workers’ rights and bargaining power, I’m especially glad we have the opportunity to discuss the future and vital work of the National Labor Relations Board.

 

“As we’re beginning a conversation that is fundamentally about workers’ rights, I want to start by noting we should be doing everything we can to protect workers and that includes protection from sexual harassment.

 

“As more and more women and men are coming forward and sharing their stories, it is clear we must take much more action to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces—especially in those industries outside of the spotlight.

 

“Mr. Chairman—six weeks ago, the Democratic members of this Committee asked us to hold a hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace…

 

“And seeing that it’s been almost four decades since the HELP Committee’s last hearing on this issue—I think it’s well past time.

           

“So I hope we can get one scheduled soon.

 

“Mr. Ring—thank you for being here and your willingness to serve in this critically important role.

 

“Over the past year, President Trump has broken promise after promise to workers…

 

“He’s made it easier for corporations to put workers’ lives and safety at risk…

 

“He wants to allow businesses to deny workers the money they’ve earned, both in overtime pay and their tips…

 

“And most relevant to today’s hearing, he’s launched a full-fledged assault on workers’ right to speak up together, join unions, and negotiate collectively for better wages and conditions.

 

“Mr. Ring, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining.

 

“To be very clear, that is not my opinion—that is what the National Labor Relations Act states.

 

“The NLRA gives workers a voice…

 

“The ability to join together and advocate for higher pay and better working conditions and to fight against unfair or predatory practices by their employers.

 

“Unions and collective bargaining helped create the middle class and helped millions of families become economically secure in the 20th century.

 

“But over the past few decades, our economy has started to favor big corporations and those at the top.

 

“Corporate special interests have sought to undermine unions and workers’ ability to negotiate with their employers…

 

“And as union membership has declined, we’ve seen more and more workers fall behind, struggling with stagnant wages and no real voice in the workplace – all while big corporations make record profits.

 

“So—in order to rebuild the middle class—we need to get back to the core mission of our nation’s labor laws, and give workers a fair shot to get ahead.

 

“Unfortunately—the Trump Administration is taking the National Labor Relations Board in the wrong direction.

 

“Mr. Ring, as I’m sure you know, the NLRB is the only place workers can turn to enforce their rights under the NLRA.

 

“But since President Trump’s nominees were confirmed last year—they’ve worked to drastically erode workers’ rights, and to undermine the NLRB’s ability to carry out its mission.

 

“Last December, right before the Republican Chair’s term expired, the Board made a number of 11th hour decisions to undercut workers’ protections including, with its joint employment decision in Hy-Brand, permitting corporations to shirk responsibility to negotiate with workers for fair pay, scheduling, and working conditions.

 

“And despite his firm’s work on this very case, William Emanuel participated in actions related to the joint employer standard.

 

“Mr. Emanuel then made contradicting and potentially false statements when I asked about his participation in this matter.

 

“The Board’s independent watchdog, the Inspector General, is currently investigating Mr. Emanuel…

 

“In light of the IG’s findings so far, the Board has already vacated its decision to overturn the Obama Administration-era ruling on the joint employer standard.

 

“We’ve also heard reports that the Board’s General Counsel, Peter Robb, is proposing a drastic reorganization of the NLRB…

 

“Including taking power away from career, non-partisan Regional Directors and increasing the burden on workers to bring a case before the Board.

 

“These decisions are exactly the kinds of changes designed to advantage corporate special interests at the expense of workers’ rights, bargaining power and economic security …

 

“And Democrats are committed to shining a spotlight on them and doing everything we can to make sure workers and families know what’s going on.

 

“Given all this—the last-minute, 11th-hour decisions to disempower workers, the proposals to reorganize the board’s operations in favor of big corporations, and the conflicts of interest already identified by the Inspector General…

 

“It’s clear the last thing our nation’s labor board needs is another champion for those at the top.

 

“Now, Mr. Ring, you have spent your career as a corporate lawyer representing the interests of companies—not workers.

 

“You opposed the Board’s reforms that stop companies from unnecessarily delaying union elections.

 

“And you have encouraged the Board to undermine long-established rights like the right to coworker representation in disciplinary interviews.

 

“You have even written advice for corporations on how to avoid providing workers with protections—and how to deny them their rights.

 

“After years of aiding corporate management in skirting worker protections—I find it difficult to believe you will be able to uphold the core mission of the NLRA.

 

“I’m certainly hopeful your testimony will persuade me otherwise…

 

“But I fear you will be another Trump Administration-appointee working to undermine the rights of the very people you have been nominated to stand up for.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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