Republicans hold majority on the nation's top federal labor arbiter for the first time since 2007 after the Senate confirmed Trump nominee William Emanuel on Monday.
The Senate voted 49-47 to confirm Emanuel, a management-side labor attorney at Littler Mendelson and member at the conservative Federalist Society, to fill the final vacancy at the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees workplace disputes and union elections.
Emanuel's appointment marks the first time Republicans have controlled the five-member board since 2007 and follows the confirmation of chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Marvin Kaplan in August. The 3-2 GOP majority comes as the agency considers challenges to several controversial decisions made under the Obama administration.
Emanuel won praise from conservative think tanks, as well as business groups, which frequently criticized the NLRB for disregarding precedent to advance the interests of organized labor.
Trey Kovacs, a labor policy expert at the pro-free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that a Republican majority could undo the NLRB's approach to micro-unions, holding parent companies and contractors liable for labor practices of franchisees and subcontractors, as well as union election practices.
"It's essential that the NLRB start to undo the harm caused during the Obama administration, when the board put out numerous job-killing decisions and rules that weaken worker choice," Kovacs said in a statement.
Cicely Simpson, an executive vice president at the National Restaurant Association, praised Emanuel's record. The association has frequently criticized the Obama board's approach to labor law.
"William Emanuel's confirmation will allow for the full consideration of issues directly impacting small businesses, like restaurants, while restoring fairness and balance to the NLRB. We look forward to working closely with Mr. Emanuel and the NLRB," she said in a statement.
Emanuel has drawn staunch opposition from Democrats and organized labor. Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) criticized his record of defending corporations throughout his legal career during a confirmation hearing. The AFL-CIO announced it would oppose his appointment in a July letter sent to the Senate.
"He has never represented a worker or union in an employment matter—not even in pro bono work," the letter said. "Some in Congress and in the business community have launched relentless attacks on the NLRB and sought to get key NLRB decisions and actions overturned. Kaplan and Emanuel have been part of these attacks."
Republicans will enjoy control of the board for a relatively short time period. Chairman Philip Miscimarra has said he will not seek reappointment when his term expires in December. The GOP will still be able to hold majorities on three-member panels until Trump fills his vacancy.