Trump labor board counsel fired after resisting Biden's call for resignation

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Rebecca Rainey
·2 min read
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National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb, a Trump appointee, has been fired after refusing a request from President Joe Biden to step down from his post.

Biden had asked for Robb's resignation Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the new president's inauguration, according to a White House spokesperson.

Robb said that if he followed through with Biden's request it "would set an unfortunate precedent" for labor relations in the U.S., according to a copy of a letter obtained by Law360.

The White House said he was subsequently fired.

The ouster of the labor board's top lawyer before his term was set to end in November follows criticism from Democrats over what many felt was the pro-management direction that the board has taken in recent years.

Democrats have also raised concerns over Robb's moves to reorganize some of the board's regional offices and new guidelines for agency investigations.

Bloomberg Law was first to report the news.

Robb has significant control over what cases the board considers in his role overseeing investigations and charges brought against companies suspected of violating the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency charged with enforcing U.S. labor law related to labor practices and collective bargaining agreements.

A top House Democrat called Biden's move "a major victory for American workers."

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, commended the decision, arguing that Robb "has consistently neglected his statutory duty to uphold workers’ right to stand together and negotiate for better working conditions."

But the National Right to Work Foundation, an anti-union group, criticized Biden's action as the "very opposite of a return to ‘normal.’"

NLRB spokesperson Kevin Petroccione told POLITICO in an email that the board had no comment.

Democrats have also raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest between Trump-appointed board members and their former clients. House Democrats subpoenaed the board last year for documents related to alleged conflicts in a high-profile unfair labor practice case against McDonald's Corp., in which Robb had a role.

The case was brought by the Obama-era NLRB alleging that the fast-food giant was liable for labor violations committed by its franchisees.

Robb sought a stay in the McDonald's case, arguing that a later-vacated business-friendly board ruling on joint employment rendered moot the claims against the fast-food giant.

That case, Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, was reversed by the NLRB after an inspector general report said that board member William Emanuel shouldn't have participated in the decision, given his former law firm's participation in an earlier joint-employer case that the 2017 ruling overturned.

The dispute sparked outrage from Democrats who raised concerns about conflicts of interest at the labor board.

Robb said at the time he did "not agree with the opinions reached in the IG report."