WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Joe Biden fired the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday after he was asked to resign and refused to do so.
Peter Robb, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the position, was fired with ten months left in his four-year term at the agency.
The NLRB was created in 1935 to assure fair labor practices and workplace democracy nationwide.
The General Counsel, appointed by the president to a 4-year term, is independent from the Board and is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases and for the general supervision of the NLRB field offices in the processing of cases.
Bloomberg Law reported that critics noted Trump refrained from firing Richard Griffin, the NLRB General Counsel during the Obama administration, allowing him to serve nine more months until the end of his term. Before that, Ronald Meisburg, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, served for more than a year under Obama.
“The timing and the optics are stunning,” said Michael Lotito, a management-side attorney at Littler Mendelson. “At the same time the president is talking about unity, you’re firing this individual of an independent agency without cause because unions have asked you to do it. So from a labor management perspective this isn’t about unity. This is about bare-knuckle politics.”
“This outrageous ultimatum that General Counsel Robb step down from his four-year Senate appointment less than ten months before the expiration of his term is unacceptable and flouts the National Labor Relations Act,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee.
Bloomberg Law also said the firing raises legal questions. In 1950, then-President Harry Truman asked the NLRB general counsel at the time, Robert Denham, to leave over the execution of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act. Denham voluntarily resigned.
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 Politico.