By Nelson Cary and Alex Ehler
The NLRB’s pro-union march gained more momentum earlier this week, as President Biden nominated Gwynne Wilcox to fill a vacant seat on the Board. Wilcox, a senior partner at the union-side labor and employment firm Levy Ratner, is also known for being the attorney who sued McDonald’s on behalf of the Fight for $15 worker advocacy group.
Although Republicans currently outnumber Democrats on the panel by a 3-1 margin, Wilcox’s confirmation will further the Biden Administration’s aim to reclaim a majority on the five-seat panel later this year. As is tradition, Democrats also control the board chair position with President Biden having nominated Lauren McFerran to the position on his first day in office. Democrats are poised to take the majority later this year when Republican member William Emanuel’s term expires in August 2021. When Emanuel’s seat is filled, Democrats will hold a 3-2 majority of the Board.
Biden has moved quickly and aggressively to upend Trump-era precedent and policy at the NLRB, such as firing former GC Peter Robb (R) on the first day of the new Administration–an unprecedented move–and subsequently appointing an acting GC who rescinded several memoranda issued by Robb during his tenure. If confirmed, Wilcox is certain to accelerate this trend.
As an attorney for Fight for $15, Wilcox sued McDonald’s, commencing a legal battle spanning several years. The litigation thrust into the spotlight large corporations’ liability for the conduct of franchisees, contractors, and other third-parties. McDonald’s ultimately settled for $170,000.
In a question-and-answer session posted by her firm, Wilcox said that her work with the Fight for $15 campaign is one of her proudest equal rights achievements. Wilcox explained that she is proud of working with and representing fast food workers “who had the courage to stand up and challenge their employers’ unfair practices.” She went on to say, “I am inspired by the evolution of unions organizing in new areas of work, the formation of worker centers and other organizations that are committed to empowering more workers, and the increased interest in equal rights in the workplace.”
For the labor professional on the management side, the implications should now be obvious if they weren’t already: the NLRB’s pro-union, pro-labor agenda is just getting started. And, it is accelerating. As this blog noted earlier this year, the management-side labor professional should not expect a friendly NLRB for some time to come.