Punching In: Trumka Keeps the Throne


Monday morning musings for workplace watchers 

By Chris Opfer and Ben Penn


Trumka Timing | Talking Job Training | ‘Being Bold’ at the NLRB

Ben Penn: The AFL-CIO convention carries on through Wednesday in St. Louis, after President Richard Trumka and his top two deputies were re-elected yesterday to lead the 12.5 million-member union umbrella organization. They ran unopposed, meaning months-old rumors of AFT President Randi Weingarten tossing her name in the hat never materialized. Now THAT would have been intriguing. 

Still, the convention hall won’t be lacking in drama and Bloomberg Law’s Jaclyn Diaz will be onsite to capture it all. The AFL-CIO’s broad range of affiliated unions, with their varying views on the Trump White House, creates prickly political tension within a labor movement in need of a unified message. 

Here at Punching In, we want to know if people think Trumka has the desire to serve out his entire four-year term. Few would blame Rich if he wanted to hang it up before 2021, rather than manage the herculean challenges that await him after what’s already been a lengthy, accomplished career. 

Check in with Jaclyn for updates throughout the week, and send any tips or St. Louis dining recommendations her way at jdiaz@bna.com. I’ve got two words for you, Jaclyn – Pappy’s Smokehouse.

One way Trumka can try to woo members to the anti-Trump side is to discuss the White House appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which gave the board its first Republican majority in nearly a decade. The two recently-sworn in GOP members haven’t begun to tilt decisions in employers’ direction, but change is on the horizon. If companies listen to the advice of veteran management-side labor attorney Hal Coxson, a new NLRB will soon be spelling bad news for workers and unions.

Coxson, speaking at the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, said his firm Ogletree Deakins frequently used to urge clients to consider settling NLRB complaints rather than appealing, given the likelihood of a ruling against management. But Coxson told the hundreds of in-house counsel in attendance that now’s the time to “be bold.”

“Consider challenging the decisions of the regional directors and taking it to the full board where you have a much better chance than you did a few months ago of being successful,” Coxson said.

Chris Opfer: Tomorrow I’ll sit down with former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to talk job training during Bloomberg Next. We’re part of a slate of “Connected Future” talks that also includes sit downs with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Waymo government affairs chief Tekedra Mawakana.

I’ll be talking with Pritzker about how to get workers the skills they need to fill jobs available now and how to train them for the jobs of the future. The latter question in particular is a tough one. Technology is advancing so quickly  it’s hard to predict what workplaces will look like in the next decade.

The event comes as the Trump administration has been touting training and apprenticeships as the centerpiece of its labor policy agenda. Preparing workers through public-private partnerships is seems to be Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s favorite topic. The DOL last week unveiled an apprenticeship task force composed of business, industry and labor leaders. Meanwhile, a bipartisan foursome of House lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would offer tax credits to businesses who pick up the tab for their workers’ education and training.

What I want to know is where job training fits into the bigger picture. Will workshops and classes do the trick if it’s still cheaper for employers to ship jobs overseas? And how about the growing segment of the workforce who are classified as independent contractors? How do businesses prepare those workers for the jobs of the future if they don’t want to have to reclassify them as employees? Courts and regulators usually see training as a sign of a traditional employment relationship.

BP: Now, for some quick Labor Department housekeeping:

  • A trio of top DOL personnel (Cheryl Stanton for WHD, Pat Pizzella for deputy labor secretary, David Zatezalo for MSHA) were voted out of the Senate labor panel last week. The nominees await word from Mitch on when they’re up for full Senate consideration. If it happens this week, we won’t get much lead time, so stay on your toes, folks.

  • No news yet on when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will act on the nomination of Kate O’Scannlain for solicitor, the third-ranking DOL officer. The Kirkland & Ellis partner’s conflicts of interest paperwork was released late last week by the Office of Government Ethics, paving the way for a hearing when the committee has time. Most of O’Scannlain’s applicable legal work for this critical job involves mergers and acquisitions. In other words – there is no paper trail of what she’s done in the labor and employment space.

  • Assistant Secretaries Bryan Slater (administration & management) and Jeff Grappone (public affairs) have quietly joined the Labor Department, following their late-summer nominations. Neither of these officials required Senate confirmation.

  • The revolving door always turns at the Frances Perkins Building, as Byron Zuidema has retired as the top career official at the Employment and Training Administration. Without a White House nominee to lead ETA, Zuidema had been the acting assistant secretary in the Trump administration, but now that position is listed as vacant.

  • The intrigue continues at the DOL employee union, following AFGE Local 12’s surprise trusteeship earlier this month. AFGE National Vice President Eric Bunn has now visited DOL to explain to members why he removed their union leaders over charges of unauthorized spending. But the local union’s ousted veep Eleanor Lauderdale wrote Bunn an email, which she shared with Bloomberg Law, accusing him of failing to address why he replaced the leaders with their political challengers in a now-canceled election. “You must see that the optics here are very bad. It looks very stinky!” Lauderdale wrote.

CO: Who said we could expect a kinder, gentler Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in the Trump administration? Bloomberg Law’s Jay-Anne Casuga and Jasmine Ye Han have been doing some digging into OFCCP enforcement data. They found that the federal contractor discrimination police brought in big bucks this year in back pay for federal contractor workers.

Sure, most of the money stems from audits that started during the Obama administration (and at least a few from the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eras). But without new leadership at the OFCCP, federal contractors probably won’t see the sudden shift to compliance-driven model that some had been expecting. Audits may also continue to vary depending on which OFCCP office is handling the investigation.

BP: We’re punching out. Daily Labor Report subscribers can check in during the week for updates. Bloomberg Law reporter Laura Francis will be on the scene this morning when a House Committee marks up an immigration bill that would make E-Verify mandatory. Jon Steingart is looking for some context for the Harvey Weinstein saga, including a rundown of where the movie mogul fits into the growing list of business leaders behaving very badly.

See you back here next Monday morning.

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