Labor Board Prosecutor Robb Asked to Brief Senators on Agenda

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By Hassan A. Kanu

Democratic lawmakers asked the National Labor Relations Board’s top prosecutor Feb. 15 for a briefing on a series of proposals that could overhaul the agency, according to letters obtained by Bloomberg Law.

NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb is considering moves to reduce the role of the board’s field offices, shorten investigations, emphasize settlements, and impose strict deadlines on workers filing complaints when employers allegedly obstruct their organizing efforts. Those proposals have been met with criticism from some current and former agency employees, worker advocates, and Democratic lawmakers like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Patty Murray (Wash.)., who asked for the briefing.

“We are writing to express grave concern regarding reports of your proposals to diminish the role of the National Labor Relations Board Regional Directors and make it harder for workers to bring charges for violations of their rights,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Robb. “In order to better help us understand your proposals, please specify a date before March 8, 2018, on which you are available to brief us or our staff on these matters.”

A group of House Democrats led by Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.) also asked for a briefing in a separate letter. The NLRB and general counsel’s office declined Bloomberg Law’s request for comment on the matter.

Robb, a Trump appointee who was named general counsel late last year, has said the proposals are only in a preliminary phase and will be subject to input from employees and stakeholders outside the labor board. He has generally defended the proposals by citing budgetary constraints, although some have implied that the general counsel has at times been contradictory on the matter.

Although “the Board always faces budgetary constraints, we understand you indicated that you would favor reorganizing” the regional offices “even if budgetary constraints were not a concern,” the senators wrote.

Robb has also said falling caseloads mean it’s time for the board to take another look at processes that haven’t changed in decades.

Unions representing NLRB employees are among those already sounding the alarm. Workers from two NLRB offices recently staged a protest against the proposed changes.

The letter also asks Robb for answers to a series of questions. One of those asks for all communications regarding the plans between the general counsel and a number of business groups who’ve played an outsize role in influencing board and workplace law generally, including the National Right to Work Committee, the International Franchise Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

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