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Four Names Emerge To Fill An Open Democratic Seat On The NLRB, Including A Special Counsel To The CWA & General Counsel To SEIU Local 32BJ

Published Wednesday, December 2, 2020
by Ian Kullgren & Robert Iafolla/Bloomberg Law
Four Names Emerge To Fill An Open Democratic Seat On The NLRB, Including A Special Counsel To The CWA & General Counsel To SEIU Local 32BJ

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Four lawyers have emerged as the leading candidates to fill an open Democratic seat on the National Labor Relations Board once President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, according to people familiar with the discussions.

That list includes Union-side lawyers, some of whom also could bring diversity to the all-White Board: Kent Hirozawa, a former Obama-era Board Member who practices at Gladstein Reif & Meginniss in New York; Jennifer Abruzzo, a former Deputy General Counsel at the NLRB who’s a Special Counsel to the Communication Workers of America (CWA); David Prouty, the General Counsel for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ; and Gwynne Wilcox, an Attorney at Levy Ratner.

Whoever Biden selects would fill the sole vacant seat on the five-member NLRB, though Republicans will maintain the majority until August 2021 when the term of GOP Member William Emanuel expires.

When Emanuel leaves, Biden is expected to nominate another Democrat to install a Democratic majority - though it’s unclear whether either nominee would be approved by a Republican-controlled Senate.

Discussions are still in the early stages and most groups have yet to commit to a specific candidate.

National AFL-CIO General Counsel Craig Becker signaled during a recent interview his support for those four potential nominees - but wouldn’t say who the Nation’s largest Labor Federation ultimately would recommend.

“Those are ‘some extremely qualified’ people,” Becker said. “Kent and Jennifer ‘obviously have considerable experience at the agency.’  ‘All of them would be exceptional’ board members.”

Having a diverse candidate for the open NLRB spot is key for the National AFL-CIO, Becker said, and he expects it will be front of mind for the Biden team as well.

Hirozawa is Japanese-American and Wilcox is African-American.

Abruzzo is also considered a top candidate for General Counsel if Biden gets rid of current General Counsel Peter Robb before his term is up in November 2021.

Abruzzo has more than two decades of experience at the NLRB, having served as Deputy and acting General Counsel.  She was also recommended by the National AFL-CIO to fill a vacant seat during the Trump Administration - but was never formally nominated.

Biden’s ability to fill the Democratic seat on the NLRB may come down to the Senate runoff elections in Georgia in early January.

If both Democratic candidates fail in the Peach State and Republicans retain control of the Senate, the GOP majority in the Senate could refuse to move any NLRB nominee that the new administration puts forward.

That would seal Republican control of the NLRB until December 2022.

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