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President-elect Donald Trump has agreed to settle labor disputes at two Trump hotels, one in Las Vegas and the other in Washington. As a business owner, he's had a rocky relationship with unions at his hotels. When he becomes president next month, he'll be able to appoint members of the board that hears labor cases. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas had been trying for months to join the Culinary Workers Union. The Trump Organization fought them at every turn. Earlier this year, the dispute went to the National Labor Relations Board. Trump lost. He appealed the decision in federal court. Meanwhile, the union retaliated by calling for a boycott of Trump properties. Union spokesman Bethany Khan says the election made this an especially unusual battle.
BETHANY KHAN: The Culinary Union has fought against billionaires before, but we've never fought against somebody who was running to be president of the United States of America, and that put us in a complicated position.
ZARROLI: Late yesterday, the union announced that Trump had agreed to a four-year contract at the Las Vegas hotel as well as at another one in Washington. The settlements underscore one of the ongoing conflicts Trump will face in the White House.
As president, Trump will get to name three people to the National Labor Relations Board, and after next year, he will also get to appoint the agency's powerful general counsel. Former NLRB chairman William Gould says these appointments have enabled presidents of both parties to put their ideological stamp on the board.
WILLIAM GOULD: The board has always shifted back and forth depending upon which administration is in power.
ZARROLI: But Gould says Trump's tenure is unusual in one important way. Like many business owners, he has sometimes had cases before the NLRB, and some are still pending. That means he'll get to appoint the very people who will rule on his own labor disputes.
GOULD: We have never seen a situation like this in the 81-year history of the board where the president who appoints parties has had a financial interest in a matter coming before the board.
ZARROLI: How this will play out is unclear. It could be that Trump's appointees will have to recuse themselves from decisions related to his properties, or Trump may continue to try to settle labor disputes before he's sworn in.
Over the past few weeks, Trump has taken steps to address some of the conflicts he faces and pull them off the table. Just this week, for instance, the Trump family distanced itself from a much-criticized charity event in which donors bid for access to Trump and his sons.
Meredith McGehee Issue One, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to get money out of politics. She says Trump deserves some credit for addressing the issue, but he needs to go a lot further.
MEREDITH MCGEHEE: It's really important to keep your eye on the ball in terms of how he's going to deal with these conflicts of interest, whether or not he's going to set up the blind trust and show the American people that their interests are first, not his family's or his business interests are first.
ZARROLI: Trump may have put the dispute with the Culinary Workers behind him, but she says he still owns a vast network of businesses that will pose big problems for him as president. And unless Trump deals with them now, he'll face more such battles after he's sworn in. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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