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Recent Senate Confirmations Cement Democrat Control of NLRB

The Senate confirmed two union lawyers – David Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox – to seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 28, 2021, ensuring a Democratic majority for the first time in almost four years.

This follows the Senate’s confirmation of Jennifer A. Abruzzo, President Joe Biden’s nominee for General Counsel of the NLRB.

With these key nominees in place, expect the Board to continue its shift to a pro-union view.

The Senate voted 52-47 to confirm Wilcox’s nomination. Prior to her appointment to the Board, Wilcox was a partner at Levy Ratner P.C., a union-side law firm in New York, and served as associate general counsel for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest health care union in the United States. She fills the seat that has been vacant since former Chair Mark Pearce’s term expired in 2018.

Prouty was confirmed by a slightly higher 53-46 margin. Like Wilcox, Prouty has a long background serving unions – he most recently was General Counsel of SEIU 32BJ, the largest union of property service workers in the United States.

Both Prouty and Wilcox will serve five-year terms, though Prouty will not be seated until Republican member William Emanuel’s term expires on August 27, 2021. Once Prouty is seated, the Board will have a 3-2 Democratic majority.

In a statement released on July 29, the AFSCME praised Wilcox as a “preeminent labor rights attorney” and noted she “will be instrumental in guiding the development of federal labor law and upholding workers’ freedom to form unions.” SEIU 32BJ’s statement noted it was “excited to see how [Prouty’s] righteous advocacy for workers will help build back up the NLRB as a robust defender of the rights of workers in our country,”

These confirmations come only a week after the Senate’s razor-thin 51-50 confirmation of Abruzzo to the General Counsel position. Abruzzo will serve a four-year term overseeing the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases and supervising NLRB field offices in their processing of cases. As General Counsel, Abruzzo will have the power to shape the interpretation and application of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by determining which cases to bring to trial and which legal theories to present. It is expected this will pose challenges for employers, given her public statements that she believes “vigorous enforcement of the [NLRA] will help level the playing field for workers and their freely chosen representatives.”

Abruzzo worked for the NLRB for over two decades in various capacities, including as Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel under President Barack Obama. Abruzzo also served as Special Counsel for Strategic Initiatives for the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Abruzzo is likely to push for pro-union policies and interpretations of the NLRA, aligning with President Biden, who has been on record stating he will be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.”

Following her confirmation as General Counsel, Abruzzo appointed Peter Sung Ohr to serve as Deputy General Counsel. Ohr previously served as Acting General Counsel under President Biden following the early firing of former General Counsel Peter Robb (by President Biden), who had nearly 10 months left in his four-year term. Due to legal challenges to his authority arising from Ohr’s sudden appointment as Acting General Counsel (following Robb’s arguably premature dismissal), Abruzzo is expected to ratify the General Counsel actions taken by Ohr to resolve any open questions on his authority.

This pro-union shift will present challenges to employers that just began embracing Division of Advice opinions, General Counsel memoranda, and Board case law decisions under the President Donald Trump administration. Under President Biden, along with a General Counsel that previously worked for the CWA (and the NLRB) and a Democratic majority on the Board, employers can expect to see pro-union and pro-employee opinions, memoranda, and decisions that will further promote employee Section 7 rights, the rights for employees attempting to organize in the workplace, and more.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2021National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 214
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Kathryn J. Barry, Jackson Lewis, contractor defense lawyer, discrimination allegations attorney
Associate

Kathryn Barry is an Associate in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She advises clients on compliance with various state and federal laws affecting the workplace, including Title VII, Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and New York State and City laws.

Ms. Barry also assists federal contractors in the preparation of affirmative action plans and defends contractors against allegations of discrimination on the basis...

(631) 247-0404
Associate

Henry S. Shapiro is an Associate in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including preventive advice and counsel.

While attending law school, Mr. Shapiro was the Senior Articles Editor for the Hofstra Law Review and he became a certified mediator in New York State. Mr. Shapiro completed a Concentration in Labor & Employment Law while in law school.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Mr. Shapiro was an Associate at a Long Island...

631-247-4651
Thomas V. Walsh, Jackson Lewis, employment arbitration Lawyer, White plains, Union Organizing Attorney
Shareholder

Thomas V. Walsh is a Shareholder in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Since joining the firm in 1986, Mr. Walsh has represented employers in all aspects of labor and employment law and litigation.

Mr. Walsh has represented employers before numerous state and federal courts, regulatory agencies, as well as in numerous arbitrations. Mr. Walsh has extensive experience in representing employers faced with union organizing drives and in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board. He has an...

914-872-6912
Jonathan J. Spitz, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney, Atlanta
Shareholder

Jonathan J. Spitz is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the firm’s Labor and Preventive Practices Group.

Mr. Spitz lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media issues and the changing regulatory landscape. He understands the practical and operational needs of corporate America, helping design pragmatic strategies to minimize risk and maximize performance. He has represented...

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Richard F. Vitarelli Harford  Connecticut Labor Relations Lawyer at Jackson Lewis Law Firm
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Richard F. Vitarelli is a Principal in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Part of the firm’s national labor practice, he has over two decades of experience representing employers nationally in strategic labor relations, collective bargaining, and union organizing, including in the context of mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and contract administration. He serves as general labor and employment counsel for employers and multi-employer associations in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, health care and senior living,...

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