Labor Board Shakeup Could Centralize Control Over Cases

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By Lawrence E. Dubé

NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb (R) wants to launch a major restructuring of the National Labor Relations Board’s field office operations, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg Law.

Robb, a Trump appointee who became general counsel late last year, held a conference call with regional directors Jan. 11. He told the directors he is considering reorganizing the agency’s 26 regional offices into a smaller number of districts or regions supervised by officials who would report directly to the general counsel, several sources said.

Sources told Bloomberg Law they’re concerned that the general counsel wants to limit regional directors’ authority and possibly reduce the rank of at least some regional office officials. Regional directors currently have the authority to issue complaints and dismissals of unfair labor practice cases, and they render decisions in union representation cases.

A reorganization could mean that local office decisions in NLRB cases would get final approval from agency officials located hundreds of miles away from the employers, unions, and employees involved in labor disputes. NLRB stakeholders and labor lawyers have often valued the opportunity to meet and communicate with regional directors in nearby offices, but reorganizing the board’s offices could make such interactions more difficult.

Required Board Approval

The National Labor Relations Act and labor board regulations give the general counsel broad authority over regional office operations, but board approval may be required for office restructuring and personnel actions. NLRB memoranda describing delegations of authority from the agency’s board to the general counsel have for years required board approval for an appointment, transfer, demotion, or discharge of a regional director to become effective. Federal personnel law and regulations could also affect the agency’s ability to downgrade or demote regional directors.

The delegation memoranda require board approval for the establishment, transfer, or elimination of any NLRB regional office. One attorney familiar with NLRB operations told Bloomberg Law that even if the general counsel and board agree on a plan to reorganize field offices, the agency may have to publish a formal notice in the Federal Register and allow public comment on any reorganization proposal.

Two former NLRB officials told Bloomberg Law that they had heard conflicting reports about the details of Robb’s remarks to the regional directors, but both said they would be concerned if the general counsel plans to add another layer to the field office structure, especially if it would mean moving the decisionmaker farther away from the employers, unions, and employees involved in NLRB cases.

Both former officials said the NLRB’s regional offices handle the bulk of the agency’s casehandling work and they have handled it efficiently. They said moving decisionmaking officials or authority away from local offices could impair, rather than improve, the agency’s efficient performance in unfair labor practice proceedings and union representation cases.

“At this time, no plan involving the restructuring of our Regional Offices system has been developed,” an NLRB spokesperson told Bloomberg Law Jan. 17.

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