Biden Opens Term With 'Dubious' Purge at Labor Arbiter

White House fires two labor prosecutors months before terms expire in 'unprecedented' step

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January 21, 2021

Hours after taking the unprecedented step of firing top federal labor prosecutor Peter Robb, President Joe Biden fired his successor.

At 11:22 a.m. Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board announced that Deputy General Counsel Alice Stock would replace Robb as acting general counsel, overseeing enforcement of federal labor law. By 5 p.m. she was out the door after defying a White House request for her resignation. Stock called Biden's maneuverings legally dubious and a threat to the "validity of any replacement" at the agency.

"Given the dubious legality of the January 20, 2021 removal of Mr. Robb as General Counsel of the NLRB ... it would be detrimental to the operations of the NLRB for me to resign my position," she said in a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "The events of yesterday—the abrupt and unceremonious removal of General Counsel Robb—are unfortunate for our country and to those who believed that this administration intended to follow the traditions and rules of law in our democracy."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Robb was confirmed to a four-year term as general counsel. The Biden administration fired Robb, a career management-side labor lawyer, with 10 months remaining in the term. Stock, who arrived at the agency in 2019, said Biden's handling of the agency could throw the agency into turmoil and disrupt the smooth transition of operations. She pointed to the NLRB's transition in 2017, in which Obama's appointees served out their full terms.

"Coupled with yesterday’s events, my departure without notice and adequate time for transition would be damaging to the smooth operations of the NLRB and an orderly transition to a new General Counsel," Stock said in her letter.

The NLRB had faced public condemnation from organized labor since Robb assumed office. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka celebrated the firing as a victory for unions.

"President Joe Biden has taken immediate action to secure the rights and protect the well-being of America’s working families by removing Peter Robb as NLRB general counsel," Trumka said in a statement. "Robb’s removal is the first step toward giving workers a fair shot again, and we look forward to building on this victory by securing a worker-friendly NLRB."

Republican lawmakers said Biden's unprecedented actions at the agency undermine the independent nature of the general counsel's office.

"President Biden’s continuous calls for unity and civil discourse upon taking his oath of office are already proving to be empty aspirations," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), the top Republican at the House Committee on Education and Labor, said of Robb's firing. "The Biden administration appears to be rewarding their friends in Big Labor."

Stock echoed those sentiments in her letter.

"I would have expected a more civil and professional approach to the transition from this administration," she said.

Published under: Joe Biden , NLRB