Over the last few months, Trump appointee Peter Robb, who serves as general counsel to the board, has been looking for challenges to pro-union decision that the board can consider and overturn. He has also ordered regional offices to start enforcing “negligent behavior” charges that the agency has previously considered harmless errors, such as losing an employee complaint or not returning phone calls when the worker has questions.
Robb, who was appointed by Trump in 2017, had previously worked as counsel for NLRB member Robert Hunter during the Reagan administration. In this role, Robb was a key figure in aiding Reagan’s controversial decision to fire striking PATCO workers. Robb even served as the lead lawyer on the case defending the decision to fire thousands of hardworking men and women.
Just this year, the NLRB is on pace to review 7 times as many unfair labor practices cases against unions than against employers. According to Bloomberg Law, this is driven by Robb’s directive to more strictly enforce rules against organized labor.
Outside of prosecuting harmless errors, the agency has informed unions that they will be required to tell members about the difference between union dues and agency fees. This is clearly an effort by Robb and the other Trump appointees on the board to confuse new members in strong union states into becoming agency fee payers, thus weakening the union's power.
On Friday, Robb sent out another letter to the regional boards instructing them to begin going after unions who enforce requirements for opting out of paying dues. The memo states “that workers who object to paying for particular union expenditures don’t have to explain why they shouldn’t have been charged and give the agency evidence or investigative leads to support their allegations.” Previous General Counsel’s have required this information before the agency would move forward with the case.
Last week also saw the NLRB instruct workers at Volkswagen that their scheduled union vote would be further delayed. Without explanation, the board indefinitely suspended the election to join the United Autoworkers (UAW).
These actions are a clear sign that Robb and the other Trump appointees are on the warpath, trying to fast track these decisions through before the 2020 election. Much like the Supreme Court and the lower courts that Trump and the Senate Republicans have stacked with anti-union judges, these decisions will be the lasting impact of Trump’s four years in office.