Labor Board Nominee John Ring Makes Ethics Promises (1)

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By Hassan A. Kanu and Tyrone Richardson

National Labor Relations Board nominee John Ring will submit a list of cases pending before the board that his law firm is involved in before lawmakers vote on his nomination next week, Ring said during a confirmation hearing on March 1.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and other panel Democrats asked Ring to provide the information following the conflict-of-interest investigation surrounding Member William Emanuel’s (R) participation in a controversial case on joint employer liability. The board recently scrapped its decision in the Hy-Brand case in response to an NLRB inspector general report finding that Emanuel should not have participated.

“A big ethics cloud now hangs over the NLRB,” Warren said. She noted that Ring has “a background that is very similar to Member Emanuel” stemming from his work with management-side law firm Morgan Lewis.

Ring will likely have to sit out cases that Morgan Lewis is involved in to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict. Warren and other Democrats have also suggested that members may be precluded generally from ruling on certain legal issues that could have an impact on those cases.

“I want to just say I take this issue very seriously,” Ring said. “We are compiling a list for the very reason you discussed—I don’t want to be in the situation Member Emanuel is in and I don’t want to put another cloud over the NLRB.”

The committee is currently scheduled to vote on Ring’s nomination March 7.

Comments on Ongoing Controversies

Ring also said that some of the controversial proposals put forth by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb would need approval by the board members to go forward. Current labor board Chairman Marvin Kaplan (R) said in January that a proposed reorganization, in particular, would also need approval.

The NLRB is also dealing with some internal disagreement over its budget and how the funding amount will affect operations.

The nominee said he’d get involved in budgetary decisions immediately if confirmed.

“As stewards of taxpayers’ money we’re obligated to look for ways to operate more efficiently, although in my experience with the board it runs fairly efficiently,” Ring said.

Avoided Joint Employer Issue

President Donald Trump’s third nominee for the labor board also avoided making a concrete statement of his position on the biggest issue currently percolating at the labor board: which standards to use to determine when more than one business is responsible for a labor or workplace violation.

“I know it’s a very controversial issue, as we can tell from the various questions,” Ring said. The former management-side attorney said in response to Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D-Wis.) question that he wouldn’t “pre-judge” any cases because the joint employer issue is very “fact-specific.”

Baldwin pressed him to answer a question about whether one entity that sets a limit on the salaries of employees at a different entity is a joint employer, but Ring didn’t answer directly.

“I think it went reasonably well and it’s a great honor to be here,” Ring told Bloomberg Law after the hearing. “I think they recognize the experience I have, and I’m looking forward to getting through to confirmation.”

The board currently has a 2-2 split between Republicans and Democrats. Ring, if confirmed as expected, would restore the Republican majority that ended when former Chairman Phil Miscimarra’s term expired in late 2017.

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