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Bloomberg

NLRB Announces Reorganization Plan

The board is stripping Western Regional Directors of their power and redirecting cases

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 07, 2020

Ever since PATCO union buster Peter Robb took over as the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), he has been trying to weaken the pro-union work the board is supposed to do. Through numerous decisions and rule changes that have made the board much more employer-friendly.

With the election coming up, a Trump loss would severely hinder Robb’s power. So he is doing everything he can to make it more difficult for unions to win cases before the NLRB. His new plan is to “streamline” work coming from areas out west. His plan is to demote regional directors by taking away their ability to assign cases, instead, spreading their cases out over different regions. This would affect cases from 7 regions including Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Denver, and Phoenix. Unsurprisingly, this would directly affect offices in strong union states like Washington and California.

Robb’s plan is expected to have a lot of side effects for cases. First, Regional Directors hold a lot of expertise in the area of labor law and have a lot of local contacts that allow them to quickly investigate cases. However, under Robb’s plan, a case in Seattle could get sent to an NLRB official in Alabama. Not only will it take a lot longer to investigate, but it is also moving the case from a strong union state, to one where the staffer is most likely more pro-business. The plan would also reassign staff members from busier areas to those with fewer cases, causing a backlog in cases and further delaying the investigation.

In response to Robb’s plan three Democrats, House Labor, and Education Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who heads the House Appropriations subcommittee for the NLRB, called on Robb and NLRB Chairman John Ring to suspend the planned change until they could be provided more information. In their letter to Robb and Ring, they said the plan would “undermine the NLRB’s ability to fairly and effectively protect workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.”

Investigations also would suffer if board agents from outside regions handle cases remotely, said Robert Giolito, a lawyer who represents workers and unions in the entertainment industry to Bloomberg. The agency has been interviewing witnesses remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re generally inferior to face-to-face interviews, he said.

The lawmakers also noted that by stripping regional directors of their power to assign cases Robb is demoting the directors, but demotions are only supposed to happen at the directive of the board, not the General Counsel. They also pointed out that three of the regional directors are black, so this move would cut the representation of people of color at the regional director level in half.

Robb’s plan is expected to be put into effect on August 17th.  If successful, Robb may use his last year as NLRB counsel to bring this restructuring plan to the rest of the country.

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