by Bethany Blankley
Just minutes after taking office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden’s Office of Presidential Personnel demanded that Senate-confirmed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb resign. Robb refused, citing the unprecedented nature of the demand, and was fired.
His deputy, Alice Stock, also was asked to resign, refused, and was fired the next day.
Biden named Peter Sung Ohr, NLRB Regional Director-Chicago, as acting General Counsel on January 25. Under Section 3(d) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Ohr is allowed to serve in this position for a maximum of 40 days unless the administration submits a nomination to the Senate.
Since the office of NLRB General Counsel was established in 1947, no sitting general counsel of the NLRB has been terminated by a president before the end of their Senate-confirmed, four-year term – even when the White House changes hands – the National Right to Work Foundation said.
Former President Barack Obama’s pick for general counsel, former union lawyer Richard Griffin, remained in the position for most of the first year after Donald Trump’s election, carrying out the end of his term that expired on October 31, 2017.
Additionally, the new administration withdrew a complaint filed against a Seattle-area UNITE HERE union local and the Pioneer Square Embassy Suites in downtown Seattle by a worker receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Gladys Bryant, a housekeeper at the hotel, alleged that union officials and hotel management were using a “neutrality agreement” to impose union representation on her and her coworkers without an employee vote. In November 2019, Robb sustained an appeal that Bryant’s attorneys filed after NLRB Region 19 originally dismissed her charges against Embassy Suites and UNITE HERE, ordering Region 19 to reverse course.
But after the Biden administration’s decision, the Seattle regional director rescinded the complaint against the union and employer rather than let it proceed to a trial conducted by an administrative law judge that was scheduled for February 16.
In response, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said that Biden’s “unprecedented, legally dubious firing of NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb” was to “protect the privileges of Biden’s union boss political allies at the expense of individual workers’ rights.”
Robb enforced the statutory rights of independent-minded workers against union attempts to allegedly coerce them into union ranks and dues payment, Mix added.
In the Seattle case that was just dismissed, the hotel worker successfully appealed to Robb against both union officials and her employer in order to ensure that an NLRB standard was applied neutrally. But the firing of Robb means that “Big Labor and its allies in the Biden Administration are unwilling to even apply the NLRA in a fair, unbiased manner when doing so empowers workers who refuse to toe the union line,” Mix said.
In addition to supporting Bryant’s and other employees’ cases challenging unfair “neutrality agreements,” Robb had ordered that complaints be issued for independent workers in foundation-backed cases challenging other questionable union practices. Robb had been particularly protective of workers’ rights in cases where workers sought to challenge union officials’ attempts to coerce them into subsidizing union political activities, the Foundation notes.
Robb had also backed rule changes that made it easier for employees to exercise their rights to vote out unions that were unpopular or established themselves as monopoly bargaining agents through underhanded means.
“The appointment of Ohr is seen as a step toward establishing a more union-friendly Labor Board,” The National Law Review notes. “It is thought that Ohr may soon reverse his predecessor’s operational directives and litigation initiatives.
“It is speculated that unfair labor practice complaints issued under Ohr could be challenged on the grounds that Robb’s removal, and thus Ohr’s appointment, were unlawful.”
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Bethany Blankley is a regular contributor to The Center Square.