The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been deadlocked for a few months, but the confirmation of John Ring to the NLRB’s final vacancy may pave the way for an uptick in NLRB decisions. The appointment of Ring as NLRB chairman by President Trump re-establishes a Republican majority, which is expected to focus on a pro-business agenda.
The NLRB has five seats for its politically-appointed members, but since the end of Chairman Philip Miscimarra’s term in December 2017, a vacancy has left the NLRB with a 2-2 Republican-Democrat split. Just before Miscimarra’s term concluded, the NLRB blazed ahead with key decisions on issues like joint employment, appropriate bargaining units and the lawfulness of handbook provisions. But the vacancy Miscamarra left, and the resulting deadlock, prevented the NLRB from issuing any additional decisions involving changes to the way it interprets the labor laws.
Now, with Ring’s tiebreaking vote in place, employers should expect a flurry of new rulings on significant issues this year. Ring expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to play his new role, telling senators in his confirmation hearing that NLRB decisions can bring clarity and predictability for employers and employees alike. In particular, he testified that it was very important for the integrity of the NLRB to have some finality and clarity on the joint employer issue (which has been especially messy lately) as soon as possible. Beyond that issue, employers, unions and employees are anticipating potential decisions on policies that Republican NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb previously asked the Board to review, like employee use of employer email systems and protections for obscene and inappropriate employee conduct.
Ring was sworn in on April 16, 2018, to a term ending on December 16, 2022. Before his appointment, Ring was a partner with Morgan Lewis, representing business clients in labor matters, including collective bargaining negotiations and agreements, multi-employer benefit plans and labor management relations.