On Friday, President Trump tapped Peter B. Robb to become the National Labor Relations Board’s next General Counsel. The move is likely the first in a series of appointments to the NLRB that could have a significant impact on the agency’s future policy initiatives.
The NLRB administers the National Labor Relations Act, a New Deal piece of legislation that grants employees the right to bargain collectively with their employer over the terms and conditions of their employment. During the Obama Administration, the NLRB issued new regulations that shortened the time for union elections, decided cases invalidating common employee handbook policies, and overturned decades of precedent on issues like “joint employment” and the payment of union dues.
The NLRB’s previous General Counsels were instrumental in pursuing many of these agenda items. The General Counsel is responsible for issuing complaints against employers and unions for alleged violations of the NLRA and plays an important role in setting the NLRB’s enforcement priorities. The General Counsel also oversees the agency’s regional attorneys and advises its Regional Offices on interpretations of labor law. Trump’s nomination of Robb signals a move away from the NLRB’s Obama-era priorities.
Robb is no stranger to the NLRA. At the beginning of his career, he served as an NLRB lawyer in Washington and as chief counsel for NLRB Member Robert P. Hunter (a Republican Board Member). Robb since has served as an attorney to employer associations and corporations, including elevator manufacturers and construction companies. He currently represents employers at the Vermont law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC.
In the past, Robb was critical of the NLRB’s “quickie-election” rule and its position on common employee handbook policies. If confirmed, he likely will carry his opinions and experiences in representing employers into his new role as General Counsel.
Robb’s nomination comes at a time when the composition of the NLRB itself is in flux. The five-member Board currently consists of two Democrats and two Republicans, but the Senate is expected soon to confirm Trump nominee William Emanuel. With a more conservative majority on the Board and a General Counsel with a background representing employers, the stage is set for many of the Board’s recent controversial decisions to be revised or overturned.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.