Trump Talks Labor Policy With Former NLRB Member

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By Chris Opfer

Nov. 21 — Former National Labor Relations Board Member Peter Kirsanow (R) came away from a surprise weekend meeting with Donald Trump impressed with the president-elect’s command of workplace policy issues.

“He understood OSHA and the NLRB far better than any lay person I’ve ever been around, and even better than some labor lawyers,” Kirsanow told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 21. “I think you’re going to see a very professional and efficient operation that is going to do everything they can to increase labor force participation.”

Kirsanow, who is a partner at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff in Cleveland, said Trump was particularly interested in creating jobs by cutting regulations generally and enforcing immigration law. He also said the New York real estate magnate expressed interest in bolstering workplace safety laws enforced by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The meeting is likely to spur some talk about Kirsanow getting a look for a spot in the Trump administration, but he said the president-elect hasn’t offered him a job. “The only thing that I understood was that he is focused intently on getting the best people that America has to offer,” Kirsanow said.

Kirsanow and Trump chatted for nearly an hour Nov. 20, one day after Kirsanow said he received an unexpected invite to meet the president-elect at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. Trump also discussed labor issues with Andrew Puzder—chief executive officer of CKE Holdings, which operates Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—over the weekend.

Kirsanow left the board in 2007, after a two-year term.

Not a Fan of Joint Employer Decision

Kirsanow declined to go into detail about Trump’s specific policy ideas, saying instead that the two generally discussed a wide variety of ways to create jobs. He said he focused his end of the conversation on the need to combat overregulation.

“My message to him was that we have been burdened by regulations that have choked off job creation,” Kirsanow said. “Some regulations are necessary, but others are clearly causing adverse reactions.”

The NLRB’s recent decision to expand joint employer liability under federal labor law is at the top of the list of labor issues that Kirsanow said he’d like to see the Trump administration consider. He called the board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Indus. of Calif., Inc., 362 N.L.R.B. No. 186 (2015), “a major earthquake.”

“That was a mistake,” Kirsanow said of the decision. “We had a stable understandable framework for what constituted an employer and joint employer and the board did away with it.”

The board ruled in Browning-Ferris that a business may be considered a joint employer under the National Labor Relations Act if it has the right to control workers, even indirectly.

Meanwhile, Kirsanow struck a more moderate tone on the Labor Department’s new overtime rule (RIN:1235-AA11). The regulation, which is expected to make some 4 million workers newly eligible for overtime pay when it takes effect Dec. 1, has been harshly criticized by businesses, which say it will force them to shed jobs.

Trump himself has previously suggested that he’d like to see some sort of safe harbor protection for small businesses that may not be able to afford rising payroll costs. Kirsanow said he also has concerns but is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Any time you’ve got a change like that, it causes significant dislocation among various companies,” Kirsanow said. “I don’t think it will be as profound as other regulations, but whenever regulations impact employment, there’s a domino effect.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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