Democrats took back control of the National Labor Relations Board last week and made history in the process.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Gwynne Wilcox and David Prouty to seats on the NLRB. Most of the board have now been approved by Democrats, which gives the reins back to liberals.
Wilcox is the first Black woman to serve as a member of the NLRB.
“Our union couldn’t be prouder to see David Prouty confirmed to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, along with Gwynne Wilcox. As much as it saddens us that he will no longer work with us day to day as 32BJ’s general counsel, we are excited to see how his righteous advocacy for workers will help build back up the NLRB as a robust defender of the rights of workers in our country,” stated 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg.
Wilcox is currently a senior partner at the labor and employment firm Levy Ratner PC and serves as associate general counsel for SEIU (“SEIU”). The New York native’s background includes part-time and full-time work at Legal Services offices, including ones in Hudson County and Middlesex.
Wilcox current serves as an advisory board member of the Scheinman Institute for Conflict Resolution of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School.
Prouty recently served as general counsel of SEIU 32BJ.
Other unions not connected to SEIU praised the appointments of Prouty and Wilcox.
“AFSCME congratulates David Prouty on his appointment to the National Labor Relations Board,” stated AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “Prouty has proven time and again that he understands the issues confronting workers who are seeking a voice in their workplace. His wide range of experience will serve him well in safeguarding employee rights to organize and protect against unfair labor practices that harm working people.”
Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the NLRB was used to suit Trump and Republicans goals of taking the power back from labor. This included the 2017 decision in PCC Structurals, Inc. that gave employees an edge in devaluing labor unions by making it easier for employers/management to say that a union has the wrong (or improper) number of people in it. So if a union wanted to organize a small sect of a workforce, employers could only consider the union if it organized every single employee and not just a sliver of the workforce. It would be left up to the employer’s discretion.
Wilcox and Prouty’s initial nominations received pushback from conservatives who were reticent to remake the NLRB in President Joe Biden’s image. During a confirmation hearing, Richard Burr, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said that moving forward without Republican approval made the hearings a sideshow.
“Instead of nominating individuals who could gain broad bipartisan support, nominees who would seek balance and fairness in their roles, the president has nominated extreme ideologues who will be reliably partisan advocating an extreme agenda,” said Burr. “It’s not an agenda that will grow our economy or help create jobs. It’s an anti-employer agenda aimed at bringing more businesses under the thumb of bureaucrats in Washington.”
But the Democrats have their woman and man and have made history.
In a letter by AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs William Samuels, he told the U.S. Senate that Wilcox would be the best person to enforce the National Labor Relations Act protecting the rights of employees, encouraging collective bargaining, and preventing “unfair labor practices that harm workers’ ability to engage in collective action.”
“The NLRB is the sole avenue for workers to enforce those rights. Ms. Wilcox’s extensive experience protecting the rights of workers both in private practice and in public service demonstrates her commitment and ability to carry out that responsibility as a member of the NLRB,” wrote Samuel.