Ok, not really, but it seemed that way.
Last week, NLRB nominees William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan were alternatively tossed softballs and stink bombs in “questions” from Senators on the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (known in Congressional circles as the HELP Me Rhonda, HELP HELP Me Rhonda Committee).
I use the word “questions” in quotes because, as both Americans who have ever watched C-SPAN would know, these events are typically staged to allow Senators who have already made up their minds to hear themselves talk, rather than ask questions. Here’s an example:
Question by Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “Your entire career has been to discourage union membership and I just don’t understand how we can rely on you to defend workers after a long career of making it harder for them to join unions. But let me push to another point… [changing the topic].”
Question by Sen. Warren: “You have made it clear that you have pre-judged. … I think the American people deserve better.”
I don’t think she has pre-judged the nominees though. Just sayin’.
Question by Sen. Al Franken (whose recent book I liked, by the way): “It seems likely that big business will probably push you to change the NLRB’s modernized election rule. If you’re concerned, I just wanted to point that out. … What I’m saying is that the unions should be able to vote sooner than 35 days. [then on to another subject]”
Sen. Patty Murray accused the nominees of “anti-worker, anti-union, even anti-NLRB measures” and characterized them as having “careers of fighting against workers’ rights.” At least she did not dress up her remarks as a question, though. These were in a pre-published statement.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, a former corporate lawyer, was one of the few Senators to ask questions relating to independent contractor misclassification and joint employment. I should note too that her questions were legitimate questions, both topically and in the sense that they included actual question marks at the end.
Sen. Hassan asked Mr. Emanuel, “If you are confirmed, what steps will you take as a Board member to curb this epidemic of misclassification?”
Ok, “epidemic” is a bit loaded, but the bar is low here. Think pre-school obstacle course low.
Anyway, Mr. Emanuel did not take the bait. He responded, “I’m not sure I would agree with the characterization that it’s an epidemic. It does occur. … It’s like any other issue that comes before the NLRB. I would consider the facts of the case.” Jab, uppercut, duck, jab.
She then asked Mr. Kaplan if he thought the recent Browning-Ferris joint employment case was wrongly decided. In keeping with the great tradition of non-answer answers (the perfect counterpart to non-question questions!), he declined to answer, instead acknowledging that it is up to the Board to determine the proper standard for joint employment under the NLRA.
And that’s about as exciting as it got, folks!
For those without C-SPAN access, StubHub may still have seats available to future hearings. The secondary market for labor committee hearing tickets is white hot this time of year, especially with all the tourists in D.C. The committees overcharge for popcorn, though. Or so I’m told.
© 2017 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.