Peter B. Robb, a management-side labor law attorney, reportedly is being considered to be the National Labor Relations Board’s next General Counsel. The four-year term for the current NLRB General Counsel, Democrat Richard F. Griffin, Jr., expires this November. Robb previously worked as an NLRB field attorney and as chief counsel to Republican NLRB Member Robert P. Hunter.
When President Donald Trump took office, the NLRB had two Democratic (former Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran) and one Republican (current Chairman Philip Miscimarra) members, and two vacant seats. The Senate has confirmed Republican Marvin Kaplan to one of the two vacant seats, while management labor attorney William Emanuel awaits a confirmation hearing.
If, as expected, Emanuel also is confirmed, Robb’s nomination and confirmation would set the stage for the Board to reverse many of the pro-labor rulings issued by the Obama Board.
Robb has been critical of the Board’s “tenacity to find neutral policies…unlawful,” such as employers’ social media policies and values statements. Robb has also argued that the NLRB’s new “quickie” representation election procedures give unions “a distinct advantage” (for example, by shortening the timeframe in which an employer has to react to a union election petition), and signaled that he would seek to undo the Obama Board’s expansion of the Board’s “joint employer” doctrine. These issues have been a primary focus of Republicans in recent years.
The NLRB General Counsel controls which cases the Board prioritizes and pursues. Robb would be in position to bring appropriate “test cases” to the newly full Board to reverse those Obama-Board decisions that many business owners have argued go too far in favoring unions’ agenda.
Even if Robb is nominated and confirmed as General Counsel, he will not take office until after Griffin’s term expires, in November. After that, it likely will take many months for the appropriate cases to make their way to the NLRB for decision and for changes to be realized.