Republicans put union-busting lawyer in charge of enforcing labor law
Senate Republicans have confirmed union-busting attorney Peter Robb (center, in color) as the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board. He played a key role in Reagan's smashing of the Air Traffic Controllers strike in the early 1980s. Background photo features picketing PATCO workers at Philadelphia's International Airport, Aug. 4, 1981. | Bill Ingraham / AP

WASHINGTON—By a 49-46 party-line vote—all of the ruling Republicans for and all the Democrats against—the Senate decided on November 8 to name Peter Robb as the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, its top enforcement job.

Robb, now a management-side labor law attorney in Vermont, drew Democratic opposition due to his opposition to workers’ rights, dating all the way back to 1981. Then as a young federal lawyer, Robb drafted the legal memo showing GOP President Ronald Reagan how to fire the nation’s Air Traffic Controllers, who were forced to strike for safety reasons.

That, and Robb’s subsequent anti-worker service, drew protests from Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. No Republican senators spoke for Robb. The Senate Labor Committee previously approved GOP President Donald Trump’s nomination of Robb on a party-line vote.

“During his campaign, the president made a lot of big promises to workers in Ohio and across the country. He told them he’d put American workers first. But too often, the people he’s put in charge have a record of doing the opposite—and that’s certainly true of Peter Robb,” Brown said.

“Robb has spent his career trying to strip workers of their rights, defending corporations accused of mistreating workers, and trying to undermine the watchdog agency he’s now seeking to join. Someone who views unions and collective bargaining as a threat to be dealt with, rather than essential rights to be protected, has no business serving as the top lawyer for the Labor Relations Board.

“He defended corporations accused of discrimination, and of not paying their workers the paychecks they earned. He worked for an energy company that was working to defeat workers’ organizing efforts. His own law firm’s website brags about how he delayed the election for more than two years.

“We need someone in this job who wakes up every day ready to defend American workers—not someone who has spent his career trying to bring them down. What Robb doesn’t seem to understand is that it’s not corporations that drive the economy—it’s workers. We grow the economy from the middle class out,” Brown said.

“Perhaps no person at the NLRB is more critical to protecting rights than the general counsel,” Stabenow added. “When a worker believes the law has been violated and brings their concern to the board, it is the general counsel who investigates. If the employer is found to have violated the law or the freedoms and rights of working men and women, it is the General Counsel who takes action to make things right.

“Unfortunately, while President Trump talks a lot about having workers’ backs…his actions speak much louder than his words. That is certainly true in the case of” Robb.

Robb also was lead counsel on the case that led to 11,000 air traffic controllers being fired—people, “again, who were part of a union and could collectively bargain for safe conditions and good pay and pensions. They were fired and barred from federal service. It was a watershed case in the history of union suppression, in taking away people’s freedoms.”

“With stagnant wages and rising healthcare costs and worries about pension cuts and workplace discrimination, frankly, I know working men and women…have enough to worry about. They shouldn’t have to worry that the person who is supposed to have their back is, instead, looking for ways to strip away their freedom to organize on the job,” she concluded.

Robb will succeed Richard Griffin, the current general counsel whose term has expired. Griffin, nominated by Democratic President Barack Obama, is the former general counsel for the Operating Engineers.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.