by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon reports on a potentially significant milestone in efforts to change federal labor policy.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions announced it will hold a vote on Oct. 18 on the nomination of Peter Robb to become general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Robb is a management-side attorney at Dows, Rachlin, and Marin and formerly worked as a regional attorney for the agency.
The vote could be crucial to America’s labor landscape and comes in the wake of Republicans taking control of the agency’s national board for the first time in 10 years in September.
The 3-2 majority at the NLRB gives Republicans an opportunity to decide on workplace disputes and set precedent in interpreting national labor laws, but the general counsel is widely considered the most powerful position at the agency. The general counsel sets the agency’s agenda in terms of workplace enforcement and unfair labor practice investigations and oversees its regional offices. Those investigations and their prosecution generate the cases the top board hears and decides upon.
President Obama’s General Counsel Richard Griffin previously served as an NLRB board member before the Supreme Court declared his appointment unconstitutional in 2013; Obama tapped him for the office shortly afterward.
Griffin, a career union attorney, has been the leading force behind several major agency initiatives seen as union friendly, most famously his attempt to prosecute McDonalds for workplace violations committed by its franchisees. Under his leadership, the agency implemented new election rules that dramatically sped up the timeframe for holding union votes, while he called for new restrictions on decertification elections in which workers vote to cut ties with their union representatives.
Labor watchdogs and business groups expect Robb to break sharply from the regulatory environment established by Griffin, whose term expires in November.