Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion for cloture today on the nomination of Peter Robb to serve as the next General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. A vote is expected on his nomination — which will likely be approved with a largely partisan margin — on Monday, November 6, 2017. Former General Counsel Richard Griffin’s term ended on October 31, 2017. As Mr. Robb’s nomination has been sitting in the Senate since its approval by the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee on October 18, 2017, the Board announced this week that Deputy General Counsel Jennifer A. Abruzzo is serving as Acting General Counsel in the interim. Ms. Abruzzo has served previously in numerous significant positions during a twenty-three year career at the Board — Executive Assistant to General Counsels, Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the Division of Operations, Deputy Regional Attorney, and Supervisory Field Attorney to name a few.
The Board General Counsel is essentially the chief prosecutor at the Board, and sets the general philosophical and strategic priorities for the Board. Acting General Counsel Abruzzo may be expected to serve as a temporary caretaker in the position, simply ensuring that the Board is able to function, and to process cases, during this gap leading up to Mr. Robb’s anticipated swearing in.
Per the White House nomination sent to the Senate:
Mr. Robb currently works as the director of labor and employment at the law firm Downs Rachlin and Marin. Prior to that, Mr. Robb served as special labor counsel to Proskauer Rose from 1985 – 1995. He also served as chief counsel to Member Robert Hunter on the National Labor Relations Board. Mr. Robb earned his B.A. in economics from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law. Mr. Robb currently resides in Vermont with his family.
As General Counsel, Mr. Robb is expected to revisit many of the prior administration’s more extreme and abrupt departures from long-standing precedent and well-settled Board law. During the Senate HELP Committee hearing on a crowded slate of administration nominees, Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated:
Mr. Robb should help restore the board to the role of neutral umpire. While board partisanship did not start under the previous administration, it became far worse. When the board is too partisan, it creates instability in our nation’s workplaces and creates confusion for employers, employees and unions.
While employers are looking to the new Board majority and a sympathetic General Counsel to begin this process of restoration, under the best of circumstances, if Mr. Robb is approved and sworn in quickly next week, there will not be much time in a holiday-riddled calendar before Chairman Miscimarra’s term expires on December 16, 2017. The Board’s historic practice has been to avoid overturning precedent absent a three vote majority to do so.