President Donald Trump, who assured labor leaders earlier this month that they will “always find an open door” at his White House, is close to nominating a bona fide union-buster for one of two open seats on the NLRB, POLITICO’s Mel Leonor reports. Doug Seaton, a Minnesota “lawyer for employers,” is one of three candidates on the administration’s shortlist to fill two empty positions on the labor board.
“Starting with Ronald Reagan,” Leonor writes, “Republican presidents have often named stridently anti-union executives and attorneys to the NLRB. But labor and management sources queried by POLITICO couldn’t remember a previous instance when a president placed on the NLRB a ‘union avoidance’ consultant or ‘persuader,’ an occupation known colloquially as union-buster. The Labor Department requires union-busters to disclose their anti-union campaigns publicly. Seaton has done so on six occasions, most recently in May 2016.” At the moment Seaton’s leading a seventh persuasion campaign to decertify the Service Employees International Union from representing Minnesota’s 27,000 home health care workers.
Unions are none too pleased that a union-buster may soon sit on the labor board. ‘That is way out of line,” said Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a written statement that Seaton’s nomination “would be the latest example of Trump turning his back on workers.” Seaton “has spent his professional career fighting workers’ effort to join unions and gain a voice on the job,” she said. “He has no place on a board whose sole mission is to empower and protect working people.” (The preamble to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which created the NLRB, commits the United States to “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.”)
Joe Schmitt, a management-side lawyer in Minnesota who worked with Seaton in the 1990s, told Leonor, “I’m on the same side as Doug, but he is one of the most extreme management-side lawyers I know. I’m not a big fan of unions, but Doug is much less of a fan.” For his part, Seaton rejects the label “union-buster.” Unions often “fudge” and “misrepresent” what unionization is, he said. “We are simply brought in to explain. There’s always another side to the story. Here it is.” A White House spokesman told Leonor:“We don’t comment on personnel issues.”
I’ve written on the problems of an increasingly partisan NLRB before. If Trump chooses this individual, it will be another major step, but one that probably any Republican would make at this point. I don’t think President Cruz or President Walker would be any different on these issues. It’s a reminder that the problems we face are about 20% Trump, 80% a fireeating Republican Party that just doesn’t care anymore.