Biden Taps Union Ally for Board of Federal Labor Arbiter

Gwynne Wilcox serves as counsel for union that spent millions on election

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June 7, 2021

President Joe Biden tapped a major union ally to rule on labor disputes as he pursues a pro-union agenda.

Biden nominated Gwynne Wilcox to a long-vacant seat on the five-person National Labor Relations Board. Wilcox is associate general counsel for the largest local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second-largest labor union in the United States. The union spent nearly $28 million to back left-wing super PACs and contributed more than $3 million to help get Democratic candidates elected.

The SEIU also stands to benefit from Biden's policies. In April, he proposed $400 billion in spending as part of an overall infrastructure package that would devote the funding to Medicaid "in-home" care. In many Democrat-controlled states, health workers are required to join the SEIU, which boasts nearly two million members.

Wilcox also served on a working group that produced a 2020 report that endorsed expanding the power of labor unions through many of the provisions in the PRO Act, an overhaul of labor laws that is languishing in the Senate after its passage in the House. Biden, who repeatedly pledged to be the most pro-union president in history, has endorsed the bill. The report urged federal action that "must not allow" states to have right-to-work laws, which have been enacted in 27 states.

"[The] new statute should affirmatively protect the ability of workplace exclusive bargaining representatives and sectoral workers' bargaining councils to collect fees from all of the workers on whose behalf they bargain," the report said. "Concomitantly, consistent with the PRO Act, the statute must not allow states to enact or enforce so-called right-to-work laws that prohibit fair-share agreements of this kind."

The nomination comes as the NLRB is under heightened scrutiny. Biden's unprecedented firing of the board's general counsel upon his inauguration has resulted in legal challenges to the new general counsel's legitimacy as the board moves to shift its support back toward labor unions.

Wilcox's appointment, followed by the expected replacement of a Republican appointee at the end of the summer, is likely to move the board further in the pro-union direction. Her nomination will now go before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.