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NLRB’s Emanuel promises to recuse himself from what could be a substantial number of cases

In response to a letter requesting that he do so, National Labor Relations Board Member William Emanuel has disclosed potential conflicts of interest that might arise from his or his former law firm’s clients coming before the Board. In response to a letter by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 11 Democratic Senate colleagues, Emanuel has committed to recusing himself from cases involving 162 former clients and cases involving parties represented by the major management-side law firm Littler Mendelson for two years following his appointment. Emanuel’s recusal on so many cases, however, could impede the Board’s work.

Substantial number of potential conflicts. Among the 162 companies listed are major employers, such as Amazon, Uber, FedEx, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Rite Aid, Sysco, and numerous companies that have recently been involved in collective bargaining disputes within the NLRB’s jurisdiction. As required under federal ethics regulations, Emanuel has pledged to recuse himself for two years in all NLRB cases in which these companies are a party or represent a party.

After his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Emanuel failed to publicly disclose all potential conflicts beyond a narrow category of clients that compensated him more than $5,000 for the current and past two calendar years, according to Senator Warren. The more complete list of 162 companies that Emanuel has now provided in response to the senators’ inquiry is significantly broader than the list originally provided to the Committee; it includes employers across many sectors of the American economy.

Board effectiveness may be impeded. The Board is composed of three Republican members and two Democratic members. Emanuel’s recusal for two years from cases involving his former employers and clients could leave many cases before the NLRB decided in a 2-2 deadlock across party lines. According to Warren, Emanuel’s clients “from the past two years alone include major employers accused of violating workers’ rights, many of which will likely come before the Board during his tenure.” She called President Trump’s decision to nominate Emanuel “a bad move not just for working families, but also for the NLRB’s ability to function smoothly.”