April 10, 2018

Warren Delivers Speech on NLRB Member and Deputy Labor Secretary Nominations

Senator Will Oppose Confirmations of John Ring for NLRB and Patrick Pizzella for DOL Deputy Secretary

Video (YouTube)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor opposing the nominations of John Ring to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Patrick Pizzella to serve as Deputy Secretary of Labor.  In her remarks, Senator Warren highlighted Mr. Ring's history of representing giant employers and criticized Mr. Pizzella for his previous work as a lobbyist for far-right, anti-worker donor groups.  Expressing concern that the nominees will continue the Trump Administration's efforts to undermine the rights of workers in favor of big corporations, Senator Warren urged her colleagues to reject their confirmation. 

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
April 10, 2018

Mr. President, I'm here today to urge my colleagues to oppose the confirmations of two Trump nominees - John Ring, who has been nominated to the National Labor Relations Board, and Patrick Pizzella, who has been nominated Deputy Secretary of Labor.

These two nominees have been selected to hold critical jobs to protect workers, that's what these jobs are about. And I'll be blunt - I start with a pretty high bar here, since despite his campaign rhetoric from two years ago, the President's track record on standing up for workers has been absolutely miserable. From the day he nominated Andrew Puzder - an executive who delighted in mocking and belittling his own low-wage workers - to run the Department of Labor, this Administration has delivered one gut punch after another to America's working people. 

The National Labor Relations Board is responsible for protecting the rights of workers to organize and bargain for better wages and benefits. So as we consider President Trump's latest nominee for the Board, it makes sense to look at what his nominees so far have already done.

Look at the new Republican majority's very first week back on the job, back in December. In just five days, the Board mowed its way through a giant wish list of areas where giant companies were begging to be let off the hook for violating workers' rights.

  • Allowing employers to shirk their collective bargaining obligations by contracting out workers? Check.
  • Making it easier for employers to control the outcome of union elections? Check.
  • Opening the door for workplace rules that chill workers' ability to join together on the job? Check.
  • Allowing cases to be "settled" without input from the workers whose rights are affected by the settlement? Check.

Just as troubling as these anti-worker decisions themselves are, are the egregious conflicts of interests behind them. From the moment he was nominated by President Trump, I've repeatedly raised concerns about Board Member William Emanuel's history of representing big corporations that have abused their workers and about his mile-long list of potential conflicts of interest.

And sure enough, after just a few months on the Board, the NLRB's inspector general determined that Mr. Emanuel participated in not one, but two, important decisions involving his former law firm, which directly violated his ethics pledge. In response, the Board vacated one of its most consequential decisions of the last year, and Member Emanuel lost any remaining credibility that he could be an impartial Board Member. So, I called on him to resign.

Now the President wants us to put John Ring on the Board. I've asked Mr. Ring to provide a list of clients and cases that might require his recusal. And to his credit, he has done so. But Mr. Ring's long list of clients is a huge red flag: either he'll ignore the ethics rules when they're inconvenient, like Mr. Emanuel did, or he'll likely have to recuse himself from important cases. And a large number of potential conflicts of interest isn't the only thing Mr. Ring has in common with Mr. Emanuel: Like Emanuel, Mr. Ring has also spent his career representing large employers against workers, and his few public statements on the NLRB express a belief that the board has been too friendly to workers and that corporations have gotten the short end of the stick. 

After decades of stagnant wages and skyrocketing corporate profits, does anyone other than insider lobbyists and lawyers think that Washington is working for middle-class families and that big corporations are the ones under attack? I don't think so. That's exactly why an NLRB that looks out for workers is more important than ever.

President Trump's NLRB is failing miserably at that mission. Working Americans deserve Board members with a demonstrated record of fighting for workers - not against them. They deserve Board members who aren't ethically and legally constrained from doing the job. Mr. Ring does not meet those qualifications.

Workers need an NLRB that works for them. And they need leaders at the Department of Labor also who are going to be on their side - not on the side of giant employers and extreme right-wing donors. Patrick Pizzella has been nominated to the number two job at the Department of Labor, and nothing in Mr. Pizzella's resume tells us that he meets the description of being on the side of workers.

In the 1990's, Mr. Pizzella lobbied with Jack Abramoff to exempt the Northern Mariana Islands from federal labor laws-you know what that did? That's what allowed companies to run sweatshops while slapping "Made in America" labels on their products. Later, when Mr. Pizzella was in charge of data management and other operations at the Labor Department, the Government Accountability Office found that the Wage and Hour Division was egregiously mishandling wage theft complaints, consistently leaving vulnerable, low-wage workers out to dry, because of a faulty data system and other operational failures. And after leaving the Department, Mr. Pizzella went to work for secretive, far-right donor groups, like the Conservative Action Project, which secretly planned out the 2013 government shutdown to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and undermine many workers' access to healthcare, all while Mr. Pizzella was its highest-paid employee.

The Deputy Secretary position should be filled by someone who's defended worker rights, not undermined them; someone who will make government work for the American people, not hamstring it for political purposes. Mr. Pizzella is the wrong man for this job.

President Trump talked a big game during his campaign about fighting for workers, but after a year of corporate tax cuts and rolling back common-sense protections for workplace safety, retirement security, and more, we know that those promises have turned out not to be worth much of anything. The Senate should send a clear message to this Administration that we expect agencies like the NLRB and the Labor Department to stand up for working people, not to suck up to corporate lobbyists.  Rejecting these two nominees would be a good first step.