President Biden's Unprecedented Firings
Within mere hours of taking office, President Biden delivered on that promise by fired the Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb after he refused the administration’s call for him to resign. The general counsel investigates unfair labor practice charges, brings administrative complaints before the Board, and represents the agency before federal courts.
Robb had less than 10 months left in his four-year term, but unions had been urging President Biden to break with precedent by forcing him out immediately. Under Robb’s management-oriented leadership, the Board had rendered countless aggressively pro-business decisions and memorandums, which led to the first Board general counsel to be forced out in more than half a century—and the first to be fired in Board history.
General Counsel and Chairman Developments
In Memorandum GC 21-02, Ohr emphasized the policy of the Act is to encourage collective bargaining and protect workers’ rights to organize and rescinded 10 of Robb’s General Counsel Memoranda, determining “that a number of outstanding General Counsel Memoranda are either inconsistent with the above-described policies and/or Board law, or are no longer necessary.” He concluded GC 21-02 by promising to issue future memoranda setting forth additional new policies in the near future.
President Biden announced in February that he would nominate Jennifer Abruzzo, a lawyer for Communication Workers of America, to serve as permanent general counsel for the Board. Abruzzo previously served as deputy general counsel and acting general counsel at the Board. Her nomination was sent to the Senate on February 17, but a confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. Management-side lawyers are already preparing to fight her nomination, likely arguing an act taken before Robb’s term would have expired in November is unenforceable.
In addition to Robb’s removal, the President named Democratic Board member Lauren McFerran to head the Board, taking over from member John Ring, the Republican Chairman since 2018 who likewise pushed a pro-business agenda in the Trump administration. The fifth seat, reserved for a Democrat, remains vacant, however, so McFerran is still outnumbered 3-1 by Republicans on the Board.
The Future of the NLRB
Both appointments will require Senate confirmation, but once they are filled, the pro-business agenda of Trump’s Board will be replaced with a pro-union majority and General Counsel under an administration committed to protecting and expanding workers’ rights in the U.S.
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