Federal labor agency cheered Biden's firing of Trump appointee, hiring of new attorney: 'a REFRESHING change'

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National Labor Relations Board lawyers and employees cheered the Biden administration's Inauguration Day firing of former NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, an appointee of former President Trump, documents show.

The administration gave Robb the chance to resign or be fired mid-term on Jan. 20 when President Biden was sworn in. The administration then terminated the general counsel after he refused to send a resignation letter, emails obtained by the Freedom Foundation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show.

"We will fulfill the mission of the Act and bring back pride to the Agency," Peter Ohr, then the regional director of the NLRB’s Region 13 office, wrote in a Jan. 25 email, likely referencing the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, in response to an email announcing his appointment to the NLRB.

Other email exchanges within the NLRB, an independent federal agency that enforces collective bargaining laws and handles union-business conflicts, show employees cheering Biden's subsequent appointment of Ohr.

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"Hi Peter, so exciting! And such a REFRESHING change!!! Congratulations!" Neelam Kundra, an NLRB attorney, wrote.

Another agency attorney, Aaron Karsh, cheered the general counsel's appointment as "good" for Ohr, good for the NLRB and "good for the country!"

"After you made your remarks, I saw a spark of hope in my colleagues’ faces," NLRB's Kate Gianopolous said in an email to Ohr. "People need to believe that their work matters and their voices will be heard, and you clearly communicated that message."

Another agency attorney, Laura Pho, described having "chills" reading about Ohr's view of the NLRB's mission.  Brian Sweeney, deputy regional attorney for Region 19 in Seattle, told the general counsel that his appointment was a "huge sigh of relief and hope." Two employees mention making "history" with Ohr's appointment.

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Allen Binstock, retired director of NLRB Region 8, was more direct in his criticism of Robb in a Jan. 26 email to Ohr. 

"Congratulations on your appointment as Acting [general counsel]. For my money, I’d love to see you in that position permanently. It is such sweet justice to see Robb kicked out on his ass and you replace him," Binstock wrote, according to emails obtained by the Freedom Foundation. "As low as I’ve felt these past few months, when I heard the news about your interim appointment, I got up and did a happy dance!"

He added that "most of the retired" regional directors for the agency "were opposed to Biden axing Robb," but not him.

"…As we both know, Robb did what he could to hollow out the Agency and ruin it. It was only because of the brave resistance of people like you that he did not do more damage," he wrote. "So I celebrated when Robb was shown the door. But now I’m elated that you are in charge of the [general counsel's] office."

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Similar emails obtained by the National Right to Work Foundation through a FOIA request show that Mori Rubin, regional director of NLRB Region 31, noted speculation of Ohr's appointment, which she said "would be wonderful!"

Those outside the NLRB included on Rubin's email thread and whose names were redacted, responded, "Go Biden!!" "That would be terrific!" and "Hope this comes true!"

NLRB Press Secretary Kayla Blado told Fox Business that the emails are "personal comments from current and former career employees congratulating Acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr on his presidential designation in this position after serving as a career employee himself for several decades."

"As the first immigrant and Asian-American to hold this position, he is proud to serve in this capacity and uphold the National Labor Relations Act," she said.

Robb, in a letter to the White House first reported by Bloomberg Law, said his termination would "set an unfortunate precedent."

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"Indeed, my own experience, as well as my conversations with those who held this position before me, have confirmed the need for the NLRB General Counsel to act independently without constant fear of removal," Robb said in his letter. "The prosecution of violations of the NLRA will now be subject to the political influence of the White House, in violation of Congressional action to improve the function of the NLRB to achieve the NLRA’s mission to fairly resolve labor disputes."

Labor groups and unions wary of Robb had been pushing Biden to fire the former general counsel because of his perceived pro-business favoritism over workers, according to Bloomberg

While some pundits and reporters have described Biden's firing of Robb as "unprecedented," others have used the same word to describe Robb's actions at the NLRB.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which according to Influence Watch is backed by labor unions and labor union supporters, sounded the alarm about Trump's NLRB in an October 2019 report, saying it "systematically rolled back workers’ rights to form unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers, to the detriment of workers, their communities, and the economy."

The EPI noted in its report that the board under Trump issues "a series of significant decisions weakening worker protections under the [NLRA]" and "engaged in an unprecedented number of rulemakings aimed at overturning existing worker protections." It also accused Robb of advancing "policies that leave fewer workers protected by the NLRA" and advocating "for changes in the law that roll back workers’ rights."

As National Right to Work noted in a press release, Ohr has so far worked to reverse much of Robb's work within the agency and withdraw pleadings in cases that National Right to Work Foundation legal aid had filed while Robb was in office.

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The Biden administration's move was called an "unprecedented attack on the NLRB’s Congressionally-established independence" by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. In a statement Mix expressed concerns with the decision and said others should as well noting "it should have shocked any NLRB official concerned about neutrally applying the law, rather than twisting it to the benefit of the President’s political allies."

Mix added that "Independent-minded workers should not have their cases adjudicated by officials who celebrate partisan, pro-union boss attacks on the NLRB. The Biden Administration continues to stack the deck in favor of union bosses and against the rights of workers who want nothing to do with union affiliation, and these emails show many at the NLRB seem all too happy to go along."

Fox News' Brie Stimson contributed to this report.

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