Washington, DC (January 29, 2021) – Following President Biden’s unprecedented firing of Senate-confirmed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb, President Biden’s new ersatz Acting General Counsel ordered the withdrawal of an unfair labor practice complaint against a Seattle-area UNITE HERE union local and the Pioneer Square Embassy Suites in Downtown Seattle.
With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Gladys Bryant, a housekeeper at the hotel, charged both union officials and hotel management with covertly using a “neutrality agreement” to impose union representation on her and her coworkers without an employee vote. In November 2019, Robb sustained an appeal Bryant’s attorneys filed after NLRB Region 19 originally dismissed her charges against Embassy Suites and UNITE HERE, ordering Region 19 to reverse course and issue the complaint.
Today, on the instructions of the Biden-selected “Acting General Counsel,” the Seattle Regional Director rescinded the complaint against the union and employer rather than let it proceed to a trial conducted by an Administrative Law Judge that was set to begin on February 16.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement blasting the Biden NLRB’s decision to end prosecution of the case:
“The withdrawal of this complaint shows exactly why President Biden carried out his unprecedented, legally dubious firing of NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb: so Biden’s handpicked NLRB replacements could protect the privileges of Biden’s union boss political allies at the expense of individual workers’ rights. In this case, like many others, Robb enforced the statutory rights of independent-minded workers against union boss attempts to coerce workers into union ranks and dues payment.
“The complaint in this case, issued following this hotel housekeeper’s successful appeal to Robb, was against both union officials and her employer and merely sought to ensure that the Board’s ‘ministerial aid’ standard is applied neutrally, no matter whether workers are seeking to remove or impose union monopoly bargaining powers. Today’s action shows that Big Labor and its allies in the Biden Administration are unwilling to even apply the NLRA in a fair, unbiased manner when doing so empowers workers who refuse to toe the union line. The National Right to Work Foundation is proud to stand with workers challenging all types of union coercion. Ms. Bryant’s Foundation staff attorneys are currently exploring her legal options for challenging this attack on workers’ rights and the independence of the NLRB General Counsel.”
Bryant filed unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “card check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s regular secret-ballot election process. As part of the so-called “neutrality agreement,” Embassy Suites gave union organizers space in the hotel to meet and solicit employees. It also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from workers. Moreover, hotel management sent employees a letter telling them that it “had a productive relationship” with the union.
After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Bryant appealed the case to NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb in January 2019. In response to the appeal, Robb found that the union’s “card check” recognition was tainted because Embassy Suites through the “neutrality agreement” provided significant aid to the union officials’ organizing efforts in violation of the NLRA.
Bryant’s Foundation attorneys argued that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than so-called “ministerial aid” and thus violated the NLRA. The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Robb agreed with Foundation staff attorneys that the “ministerial aid” standard must apply consistently regardless of whether an employer’s assistance is in favor of or opposed to unionization.
President Biden Fires NLRB GC Robb in Unprecedented Move
On January 20 at 12:23 PM, a mere 23 minutes after the President formally took office, President Biden’s Office of Presidential Personnel demanded that Robb resign or be fired. After Robb refused to resign, citing the unprecedented nature of the demand, he was fired that same day. Robb’s deputy, Alice Stock, received a similar unprecedented threat only to be fired as well the next day when she refused to resign.
Since the office of NLRB General Counsel was established in 1947, no sitting General Counsel of the NLRB has ever been terminated by a president before the end of their Senate-confirmed four-year term, even when the White House changes hands. For example, Obama’s pick for General Counsel, former union lawyer Richard Griffin, remained the General Counsel for most of the first year after Trump’s election (until his term expired on 10/31/17).
Aside from supporting Bryant’s and other employees’ cases challenging unfair “neutrality agreements,” Robb has ordered complaints to be issued for independent workers in Foundation-backed cases challenging other illegal union practices. Robb has been particularly protective of workers’ rights in cases where workers seek to challenge union officials’ attempts to coerce them into subsidizing union political activities (which could include efforts to elect Biden). Robb has also backed rule changes that make it easier for employees to exercise their rights to vote out unions that are unpopular or established themselves as monopoly bargaining agents through underhanded means.
“Robb’s unprecedented removal is nothing more than a payback to one of Biden’s biggest political backers – union bosses – whom Robb frequently prosecuted for violating federal labor law, including by illegally forcing workers to support Big Labor’s electoral efforts,” added Mix.
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