Is Momentum Gaining For Firing Peter Robb?

The country's biggest labor union is full steam ahead on replacing Trump's NLRB General Counsel.

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When I wrote about the history and political calculus behind firing Trump General Counsel Peter Robb back in November, I honestly wasn’t sure what its odds were. Joe Biden had won the presidency in clear but hardly convincing fashion, and he was already assuming a defensive posture in the media about his incoming administration. This was possibly because the Georgia run-off elections were still two months away. Either way, the chatter seemed mostly confined to the trade publications (like Bloomberg Law and Law360) rather than the more mainstream political outlets. The NLRB was relegated to its usual backbencher status.

Something seems to be in the air now. With Biden less than a week away from inauguration and set to inherit a unified Democratic government, HuffPost’s Dave Jamieson ran a piece on Thursday which summarizes the issue and discusses a memo sent from the SEIU’s legal department to the Biden transition team. This is important. Before, we’d just heard mention of talk among labor allies about the potential power move but not if Biden’s key people were hearing it. But with the country’s biggest union now on its third month of pushing the envelope (and with the AFL-CIO’s apparently silent but tacit approval), Biden himself should be heavily weighing the option.

For her part, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry quote-tweeted the HuffPost piece and doubled down on demanding Peter Robb’s firing. There’s no mincing words here.

Here’s what still needs to happen for me to think this will actually happen, in rough order:

  1. The AFL-CIO needs to match the SEIU’s demands on the record.

  2. Labor’s allies in Congress, like Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro or Senator Patty Murray, need to demand it on the record.

  3. Democratic gatekeepers like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer need to give it the okay to Biden’s team and let media sources know it’s coming.

So we’re closer than we were yesterday, but still a ways off. I continue to think that Biden is more likely to include Robb in a wave of firings with other Trump agency holdovers than he is to single out the NLRB for change individually. The former has perhaps become more politically feasible since the storming of the Capitol and Trump’s second impeachment this week.

We’ll have a clearer idea as we reach January 20. If the firing(s) will happen at all, it should be one of the first things the new administration does.