News & Commentary

April 15, 2018

On April 11, Senate Republicans confirmed management-side attorney John Ring for the only vacant seat on the NLRB in a 50-48 party-line vote.  On Friday, President Trump indicated he would elevate Ring to Board Chairman, demoting current Chairman and fellow Trump appointee Marvin Kaplan to regular membership.  Kaplan only became Chairman in December following former Chairman Philip Miscimarra’s departure from the Board.  Kaplan’s brief time at the Board’s helm has been marked by internal strife.  After the NLRB’s Inspector General found that NLRB Member William Emanuel should have recused himself from the December 2017 Hy-Brand decision relaxing the Obama-era joint employer standard, Kaplan and the Board’s remaining Democratic appointees vacated the decision without input from Emanuel.  The NLRB General Counsel’s office has since asked the Board to withdraw its decision to vacate.

Yesterday the Working Families Party (WFP) endorsed education activist and actress Cynthia Nixon for Governor of New York over Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo.  The WFP is a left-of-center political party founded in 1998 by labor unions, community organizations, and good government groups.  The party typically relies on New York’s system of fusion voting to cross-endorse progressive Democrats, but occasionally runs its own candidates.  In 2014, the WFP narrowly endorsed Cuomo for re-election over Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout.  Following that year’s contentious nomination process, major Cuomo-aligned unions including 1199 SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council left the WFP.  The departure of those unions gave labor-funded community groups like Citizen Action, Make the Road New York, and New York Communities for Change greater control over the party’s state committee.  After those groups all individually endorsed Nixon over Cuomo this week, foreshadowing the WFP’s endorsement of Nixon, Cuomo reportedly told labor leaders that “if unions or anyone give money to any of these groups, they can lose my number.”  On Friday, 32BJ SEIU and CWA, two unions that remained in the WFP after 2014, announced they would withdraw from the party.  Cuomo-aligned unions were also reportedly considering starting their own ballot line as a labor party alternative to the WFP.  Meanwhile, rank-and-file union members announced the formation of a “Labor for Cynthia Nixon” group.

The New York Times reports that New York City real estate developers and building and construction trades unions are battling “[a]fter decades of relative peace.”  The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York claims that the developers are demanding concessions from organized labor while profiting handily from luxury projects.  Related Companies, a major developer and leading voice in the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, counters that the unions have violated labor agreements, which it claims also spike costs and impose arcane work rules.  The conflict emerges amidst an increasingly precarious climate for the construction trades in New York, as more developers move from union-only projects to an open shop model allowing nonunion contractors to bid for jobs alongside traditional union contractors.

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