President Biden’s administration fired the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel on Wednesday evening after he refused to resign, according to multiple reports.
The news of the firing of Peter Robb, a Trump appointee and the board’s top lawyer, was first reported by Bloomberg Law and later confirmed by Politico and the Washington Post.
The dismissal, which came just hours after Biden’s inauguration as the president, signals efforts by this administration to break with the tone set by the former president, whose labor policies have failed to advocate for workers and unions.
Bloomberg Law reported that the Biden administration asked Robb to resign, but with 10 months left in his Senate-confirmed role, Robb refused.
In a letter addressed to Cathy Russell, the director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Robb challenged what he called a move that was “unprecedented since the nascence of the National Labor Relations Act.” He added that his removal from the post “would set an unfortunate precedent.”
The Post said that Biden reportedly told Robb he should step down by 5 p.m. or he would be fired. Later that evening, the general counsel position on the board responsible for overseeing union elections and upholding workers’ rights to organize was listed as “vacant.”
The move comes as Biden begins to carry out a campaign pledge he made to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” and during his first day in office issued a series of executive orders to undo a number of Trump actions.
A former management lawyer, Robb was involved in a Regan-era battle against the air traffic controllers union and Democrats had broadly criticized the board for taking a pro-management direction amid Trump’s tenure.
Republicans on Wednesday bristled against the call for Robb’s resignation.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, issued a statement earlier on Wednesday urging Biden to rescind his request for Robb’s resignation calling the move “divisive” and an “outrageous ultimatum.”
But Robb’s forced departure could foreshadow a Biden presidency that deliver on promises to prioritize workers.
Earlier this month, Biden tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his labor secretary pick. His transition team said that if confirmed by the Senate, Walsh would become “the first union member to serve in this role in nearly half a century.”