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Trump's Dispute With Las Vegas Hotel Employees Poses Potential Conflict


Donald Trump says he's planning to completely separate from his business operations to avoid conflicts of interest as president. So far, the details of that arrangement are unclear. But here's another example of a possible conflict.

Workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas voted to join a union. In fact most Vegas hotels and casinos are already unionized. But Trump's hotel fought hard to stop it from happening there.


In cases like this, an agency called the National Labor Relations Board handles disputes, and the members of that board get picked by the president. That means the co-owner of the hotel, Donald Trump, will soon have the opportunity to fill two vacant spots on the five-person board.

Ruben Garcia is a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and he says conflicts like this are likely at Trump's businesses all around the country.

RUBEN GARCIA: His properties have already been in the National Labor Relations Board several times before - in Atlantic City and in New York. So there's question that his hotels will come before the National Labor Relations Board in some way or another.

SHAPIRO: How unusual is a situation like this?

GARCIA: Well, it's unprecedented really because we've never had a president who had this web of business dealings before. And so it always, we know, with presidents - they tend to pick people who agree with them ideologically.

So we expect that President Trump would pick nominees that fit his political ideology. But we also know that - or never have had the government agents who work in those places with the possibility that they may be prosecuting the president that selected them.

SHAPIRO: What if, as some have speculated, Donald Trump hands control of his company to his children who have also been advising him on the presidential transition? Could the National Labor Relations Board then have to rule on a dispute between hotel workers and, say, Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump, Jr.?

GARCIA: Yeah, I mean I think the example that you're setting forth really shows how difficult I think it really would be for these agencies to separate the fact that these are Trump properties from the fact that there's a blind trust or whatever they choose to set up.

So I think the real goal should be to pick prosecutors and government officials that will be ethical enough to apply the law evenly and equally regardless of whether or not the property has the Trump name on it.

SHAPIRO: Apply the law evenly and equally even if that means defying the interests of the president who appointed you to the NLRB, the commercial interests.

GARCIA: Yes, and again, I think that the point is that these government agents - the people who are appointed have to be monitored for these kinds of conflicts closely.

SHAPIRO: I could imagine somebody saying Republicans tend to appoint people who oppose unions. Donald Trump is a Republican. The fact that he's going to appoint people who oppose unions has nothing to do with whether he personally will profit from this or not.

GARCIA: Yes, and I think that the Republican Party is - tends to be united in its opposition to unions, but that doesn't change the fact that the law allows for workers to organize and bargain collectively. And until that law is changed, it's the responsibility, again, of both the president and also the agents and the government officials that he appoints to make sure that the plain letter of the law which allows workers to unionize and bargain collectively is enforced.

SHAPIRO: That's Ruben Garcia, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Thanks for joining us.

GARCIA: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.