WASHINGTON—Donald Trump will replace the outgoing chair of the National Labor Relations Board with another attorney from the same management-side law firm.
The President on Jan. 12 named John F. Ring, coleader of the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius firm’s labor/management relations practice, to fill the vacancy left by Philip Miscimarra, a former Morgan Lewis partner. If confirmed by the Senate, Ring would restore the Republicans’ 3-2 majority on the board. Trump did not say who he would pick as its next chair.
“We have represented employer interests in some of the biggest assaults on employer rights in recent history,” Morgan Lewis boasts on its Website, “including litigation involving the NLRB’s so-called ‘quickie’ election procedures, an employee rights notice posting, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on collectively bargained retiree health care, and the enforceability of class-action waivers.”
Ring has worked at Morgan Lewis for almost 30 years, since he graduated from law school in 1989. He has represented management in the air-freight, utilities, health-care, manufacturing, defense, and professional-sports industries “during union representation and unfair labor practice proceedings” before the NLRB, the firm says. He also advises management on how to do large-scale layoffs, and is employer co-counsel for several multiemployer benefits funds, including the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund in Syracuse, which last September voted to cut benefits to alleviate a deficit of more than $2 billion.
On the board, Ring would be likely to ally with the other two Republicans to continue to roll back pro-labor rulings made by the Obama-era NLRB. In a 2015 blog post on the Morgan Lewis site, he charged that the board’s ruling expanding when companies could be considered a “joint employer”—reversed by the Trump NLRB in December, just before Miscimarra’s term expired—“upended the law” and disrupted the way companies have long structured their business relationships.
“Non-union employers have been in the NLRB’s crosshairs,” he added, particularly in its rulings intended to have votes on unionization held sooner after workers file a petition and expanding workers’ ability to form micro-unions that represent only some employees in a workplace. Both, he said, require employers “to take preventative measures and be ready for possible organizing.” He also said that the NLRB’s rulings allowing workers to use company email to discuss organizing or workplace issues and restricting employers’ power to discipline those who talk about company matters on social media were based on “legal theories that many of us who have practiced in this area for decades never would have anticipated.”
In December 2014, he criticized the NLRB’s proposed rules for expediting unionization elections. He wrote that they would “substantially reduce an employer’s opportunity to litigate whether employees are eligible to vote prior to an election,” and require employers to give unions access to workers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses earlier in the process, encroaching on employees’ privacy and “enhancing unions’ chances of winning NLRB elections.”
Morgan Lewis has also represented Trump and his Trump Organization businesses since 2005. Its previous clients have included the Federal Aviation Administration, during the Reagan administration’s breaking of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in 1981, and Major League Baseball team owners, during the 1990 lockout and the 1994-95 players’ strike.
It has also been hired by the U.S. Postal Service to handle contract arbitration. In 2014, the American Postal Workers Union said it “is considered one of the leading union-busting law firms in the country.” The APWU also noted that Morgan Lewis represented corporate “front groups” such as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which was formed to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, and others that lobbied to weaken workplace safety rules and loosen regulations covering federal contractors.
Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Tim Wahlberg (R-Mich.), two of the loudest anti-union voices in the House, praised Ring’s appointment, saying he would help continue the Trump appointees’ work “to restore common sense and balance to the NLRB.”