One of the country’s most powerful unions urges new Biden administration to swiftly fire the National Labor Relations Board’s attorney general, a move that could set a precedent which labor groups say is needed to protect rights workers.
Peter Robb, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the GOP Senate, has another 10 months in his tenure as the Labor Board’s quasi-prosecutor. The Advocate General plays a crucial role in shaping U.S. labor policy, pursuing business and establishing rules that can determine how easy or difficult it is for workers to bargain collectively.
The 2 million-member International Union of Service Employees sent a note to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team at the end of December to justify Robb’s dismissal, calling him an “ideologue extreme and anti-union ”and“ unique destroyer ”. figure ”in labor relations, according to a copy of the memo provided to HuffPost.
Union activists plan to respond to their call to fire Robb in public on Friday. The Fight for $ 15 Fast Food campaign, led by SEIU, held a one-day strike at McDonald’s restaurants in several cities to coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Robb’s dismissal should be a central theme of these protests.
The NLRB’s attorney general may be an obscure official to most Americans, but what Biden chooses to do about Robb could be an indicator of how he rules – as a consensual moderate who wants to play nice. with the Republicans, or like a hard-nosed progressive who wants to deliver the unions and other allies.
The SEIU backed Biden’s candidacy and campaigned for him on the ground in crucial states like Michigan. Bloomberg Law reported in November that workers’ advocacy groups were mounting a lobbying campaign to get Biden to fire Robb. Since then, the SEIU has circulated memos not only to transition officials but also to other allies in the labor movement who are advocating for Robb’s withdrawal.
Terrence Wise, a Fight for $ 15 leader and McDonald’s worker in Kansas City, Missouri, said Biden shouldn’t hesitate to oust Robb.
“The NLRB is supposed to be there to help workers organize. It was not the case. [Robb] led the fight against unionization, ”said Wise.
The NLRB is an independent agency that arbitrates in disputes between employers and unions, with a five-member board that adjudicates important cases, much like a Supreme Court. The general counsel, who is separate from this council, is supposed to investigate and prosecute cases where employers or unions break the law and manage the work of the agency’s field offices.
The Advocate General has a four-year term and is not normally fired when a new president takes office, even from another political party. Robb’s tenure is scheduled to end in November 2021. Firing him instead would allow Biden to immediately install a new general counsel who is more respectful of workers and unions.
General councilors appointed by the GOP have historically favored companies over unions, but labor groups claim Robb has been extremely anti-union.
The SEIU and other unions were furious at its handling of the NLRB v McDonald’s case. The attorney general of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, filed a lawsuit against the fast food giant alleging he retaliated against workers with the fight for $ 15; After Robb took over, he struck a deal with McDonald’s, determining that the company was not accused of labor law violations alongside franchisees. A judge initially rejected the settlement, saying it left franchisees “no real obligation to do anything.”
Since then, Robb has sought so-called “neutrality” agreements between unions and employers that make it easier for workers to organize. And he recently took on Scabby the Rat, the icon of labor dispute protest beloved by unions and progressives. Robb apparently hates the rat and wants to ban its use as “illegally coercive.” The council has asked the public to submit briefs on the matter and may make a ruling that takes Scabby’s air away.
Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, said in an interview that Robb’s handling of the McDonald’s affair “shows that he has done and will continue to do enormous damage to workers in the months to come”. She said she recommended he be fired during conversations with Biden’s transition staff.
A spokesperson for the NLRB said the agency declined to comment.
Other than the SEIU, no other national union appears to be making public calls for Robb’s ouster. But a source close to the AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 unions that does not include the SEIU, said she supported the idea of starting Robb. A spokesperson for the Biden transition did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The results of the Georgia Senate special election on January 5 likely only confirmed the SEIU’s belief that Robb should be fired. With a Democratic majority in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And other Republicans will have a harder time blocking the nomination of a new Democratic general counsel or other NLRB appointments.
The main danger is that such a decision would set a new precedent and that a future Republican president in Biden’s place would oust a Democrat before the end of his term in favor of an anti-union person.
Those who support Robb’s sacking might argue that Democrats should not keep to political standards so far in the hope that Republicans will pay them the same courtesy when they return to power. Trump has shattered one standard after another as other GOP leaders stood by, and McConnell has been ruthless in reshaping the Supreme Court for conservative purposes.
Henry argued that the new administration shouldn’t worry about setting a precedent.
“I think the workers are in the midst of a crisis. I think action is needed, ”she said. “This questioning of standards does not concern what we have experienced over the past 40 years in his country, where standards relating to workers have gradually eroded.
I think workers are at the heart of a crisis. I think action is needed.
Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU
With most of another year in his tenure, unions fear Robb will do more to harm their cause, especially with a 3-1 Republican majority remaining on the board. One seat is currently open and the next vacant position comes in August.
“If Robb is allowed to stay,” SEIU General Counsel Nicole Berner wrote in a note, “he will help this majority continue their anti-worker project until November 2021, when his own term expires, and beyond that, when the board is in a position to rule on matters pending during its mandate. ”
Brandon Magner, a union lawyer, recently wrote on his sub Labor Law Lite that a president’s ability to fire the NLRB’s Advocate General seems obvious. Persons appointed to the five-member board of directors can only be hung for fault or “neglect of duty” under the law, but no such restriction applies to the general counsel. Calling the labor movement “in crisis,” Magner concluded that Biden “shouldn’t be able to put up with Peter Robb serving a second longer than necessary.”
Wise, the McDonald’s worker, agreed with this assessment, likening Robb’s tenure to “the fox guarding the chicken coop.”
“That’s why we’re calling on the Biden administration – and I would say the first day, not the first 100 days – to get rid of this guy,” he said.
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