On September 15, 2017, the White House announced that President Trump has nominated Peter B. Robb, a management-side labor and employment lawyer with a firm based in northern New England, to be the general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), replacing current General Counsel Richard Griffin when his term expires in November of 2017.
The position of NLRB general counsel is critical and comes with broader responsibilities than the general counsel position at any other federal agency. At the NLRB, the general counsel has unreviewable discretion in the issuance of complaints based on charges filed with the agency and thus is the gatekeeper in advancing cases to the Board for decision. The general counsel also has broad administrative authority and is responsible for the Board’s regional offices and their attorneys throughout the country. The general counsel helps set Board policy by arguing cases before the Board and issuing general counsel memoranda instructing the regional offices and their lawyers on the handling of cases and issues the general counsel chooses to pursue.
Robb served as an attorney with the NLRB, and from 1981 to 1985, he was chief counsel to former Board member Robert Hunter (R). Robb received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1970 and his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976.
Most recently, Robb has represented trade associations and corporations, including major elevator companies and their trade associations, in the private practice of labor and employment law. For at least 10 years in a row, he has been listed in Best Lawyers® and Chambers and Partners.
Robb’s nomination comes on the heels of President Trump’s recent announcement of two nominees to fill open seats at the NLRB: Marvin E. Kaplan and William J. Emanuel. Kaplan was sworn in as a board member on August 10, 2017, joining Democrats Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren M. McFerran, as well as Philip A. Miscimarra, the sole Republican member on the Board, whom the president formally designated as chair on April 24, 2017. Emanuel’s nomination has been passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and he awaits confirmation by the full Senate. Once he is confirmed, there will temporarily be a 3–2 Republican majority on the five-member Board. However, Miscimarra recently announced he will not accept reappointment for a second term; he will depart the agency once his current term expires on December 16, 2017. His departure will leave President Trump with another board vacancy to fill and another chairman to name. Until a replacement is actually seated, the Board is very likely to be deadlocked at 2-to-2 on most major issues.
The nomination of Peter Robb to NLRB general counsel, as well as President Trump’s other recent nominations, will likely shift the NLRB in Republicans’ favor and have a significant impact on employers in the coming years.