Senate Confirms Robb for Labor Board’s Top Lawyer Spot

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By Hassan A. Kanu and Tyrone Richardson

The Senate Nov. 8 confirmed nominee Peter Robb (R) as the federal labor board’s prosecutor and top litigator.

Lawmakers voted 49-46 to confirm President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel post. The term of the previous office-holder, Richard Griffin (D), expired at the end of October. Jennifer Abruzzo was named acting general counsel Oct. 31 and will be replaced when Robb is sworn in.

Robb, a former management-side attorney in Vermont, joins an NLRB that just recently shifted to GOP-control when a third Republican was confirmed to one of the board’s five seats. Many stakeholders anticipate they’ll use that control to undo a spate of Obama-era NLRB decisions.

“Mr. Robb’s experience in employment law will help return the NLRB to its role as an impartial arbitrator of labor disputes, instead of a political cudgel for left-wing special interest as it was under the Obama administration,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said early Nov. 8.

But the window to act could close for an extended period by next month. Chairman Phil Miscimarra’s (R) term expires in December and the board will be relatively constrained by a 2-2 party split if Trump doesn’t quickly nominate a new member. The process of selecting, formally nominating, and confirming a nominee often takes several months.

Democrats Concerned

The NLRB general counsel has significant authority over labor law and functions as a prosecutor of sorts with authority to issue charges against employers and unions for labor law violations. The counsel also selects the cases that the board rules on.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has said she isn’t “convinced” Robb would place workers’ concerns over industry, citing the stated purpose of encouraging unionizing and collective bargaining in the preamble of the National Labor Relations Act

Robb was the lead attorney in a controversial case that resulted in the firing of thousands of striking workers and the decertification of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. He has represented a number of employers in efforts to shield themselves against a union since then.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) Nov. 6 dubbed Robb part of the White House’s plan to place people in power who “do the opposite” of putting American workers first.

“Someone who views unions and collective bargaining as a threat to be dealt with was primarily the story of Mr. Robb’s career, instead of helping to protect the central rights for workers,” Brown said. “A person like that has no business serving as the top lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board.”

GOP lawmakers countered that Robb is a good pick to help the board reverse what they’ve said are anti-business policies pushed under Obama, and to usher in a new approach to joint employer liability for affiliated businesses, among other moves.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com; Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at hkanu@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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