VP breaks tie on Biden's pick for NLRB general counsel

The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
  • Confirmed over vocal Republican objections
  • Republicans say former GC improperly dismissed

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday narrowly confirmed union lawyer Jennifer Abruzzo to a four-year term as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, after Republicans questioned her role in the firing of the Trump-era GC.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie to confirm Abruzzo, who most recently was special counsel to the Communication Workers of America union after spending most of her career at the NLRB.

The NLRB general counsel acts as a prosecutor in unfair labor practice cases and is the agency's chief administrative official. Abruzzo served as the deputy general counsel during the Obama administration.

President Joe Biden tapped Abruzzo a few weeks after firing NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, on his first day in office in January.

Abruzzo could not immediately be reached for comment.

At a confirmation hearing in April, Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, grilled Abruzzo about her role in the firing of Robb, which many Republicans and business groups have claimed was illegal.

Abruzzo told Burr at the time that, as a member of Biden's transition team, she helped vet concerns about Robb's management of the general counsel's office and that she felt "stakeholders' recommendations for removing Robb be elevated."

Burr, who has since been echoed by other Republicans, suggested at the hearing that Abruzzo engineered Robb's firing so she could take his job.

Unions and Democrats, meanwhile, applauded the nomination of Abruzzo, saying her experience at the NLRB makes her well equipped to serve as general counsel and protect the rights of workers to join unions and advocate for better working conditions.

NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran, a Democrat, in a tweet said Abruzzo "is a dedicated public servant with a wealth of experience that she will bring to this important role."

Abruzzo is widely expected to reverse course on budget cuts and staffing reductions implemented by Robb, and to eliminate policies that critics say have hobbled the ability of NLRB lawyers to investigate worker complaints and pursue unfair labor practice cases against employers.

She will take the reins from Peter Sung Ohr, who was appointed acting general counsel by Biden in January. Ohr had been the NLRB's regional director in Chicago.

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.