Brattleboro attorney sworn in as NLRB general counsel

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BRATTLEBORO — A local attorney was recently sworn in as General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

Peter B. Robb, formerly a director at Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, chaired the firm's Labor and Employment Practice Group from 2000 to 2009 and served as Deputy Managing Partner from 2009 to 2012. He also served on the American Bar Association's Practice and Procedures Committee for the National Labor Relations Board.

Robb was nominated for a four-year term by President Donald J. Trump in September and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 8. He replaces Richard F. Griffin, Jr.

"I am honored to serve as General Counsel of the NLRB," stated Robb in a press release announcing his appointment. "I have always believed in the core values expressed in the National Labor Relations Act, which, in essence, is to protect the rights of employees to engage in union or other protected, concerted activity with respect to wages, hours and working conditions, as well as the rights of employees to refrain from such activities. And, once employees have freely chosen a labor organization to represent them, the Act promotes collective bargaining. These principles are part of the foundation of our successful economic system. I look forward to working with the dedicated Board staff at the NLRB in effectively and efficiently administering the Act and promoting the mission of the Agency."

In a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., Robb told the Reformer he was referred for the job by professional colleagues. His history with the NLRB was also a contributing factor, he said.

"I started as a field attorney at the NLRB, so I'm familiar with all the things the folks do," said Robb. He was appointed by Pres. Ronald Reagan and served under the Carter administration. "I was also a front-line supervisor of field attorneys and agents."

His new job as legal counsel for the NLRB, an independent agency, entails far more responsibility than his previous jobs there, but he believes his professional career since his last stint there will help to inform his duties as legal counsel. "My private practice experience was predominately dealing with NLRB issues," he said. "Also, as a deputy managing partner for a fair number of years I have experience with budgets and upper-level management."

In his new position, Robb will supervise 26 regional offices around the country with 1,500 employees. He is also responsible for overseeing investigations and prosecutions into unfair labor practices allegations and conducting elections for labor unions that are seeking to become the exclusive representatives for a group of employees.

"DRM is very pleased that our colleague and fellow Director Peter B. Robb has been confirmed by the United States Senate to be the new general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board," stated Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC Managing Partner Paul H. Ode, Jr. in a press release. "On behalf of the firm, we are proud to congratulate Peter on this impressive and well-earned recognition of his tremendous knowledge and experience in labor law and labor relations. Our clients and colleagues have benefited enormously from Peter's counsel over the years and we know he will bring great value in his service to the NLRB."

"Peter is one of the most powerfully intelligent and strategic people I have ever met," said Elizabeth Wohl, who worked with Robb as a partner in the Brattleboro office of DRM, but is now the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at the Brattleboro Retreat. "Although I frequently disagreed with him, I've never met anyone with a deeper knowledge of labor law, nor a truer commitment to a fair balance between management's interests and employees' rights. The National Labor Relations Board is fortunate to have him."

Tim Copeland, a director at DRM, worked with Robb for 19 years.

"He taught me everything I know about being a labor lawyer," Copeland said. "He has dedicated his professional career to practicing under the statute that governs the agency he is now the general counsel of. He is exactly the kind of person one would like to see get nominated for a job like that. He knows the law and the agency. I can't think of anyone better qualified for the job."

Because being legal counsel for the NLRB is a full-time, and more, job, Robb and his wife will be moving to Washington, D.C., for the duration of his four-year term. However, Robb said, after the term is up, they will be returning to their home in Marlboro.

"What will I miss the most about living in Vermont? A lot. It's hard to say," said Robb. "Maybe watching the eagles fly over the Connecticut River from the windows of the offices of Down Rachlin and Martin. I certainly will miss the green mountains and all the wildlife that appears up at our house. I will really miss the wonderfully diverse population of artists, entertainers, educators and businesspeople who live here. It's a great mix of people."

And, of course, said Robb, he will miss his colleagues at DRM.

"To me, DRM has been more than a law firm. It is a second family. I will certainly miss them."

Robb also said the current political climate in the United States did not factor into his decision to take the job with the NLRB. "The position is a four-year term with an independent agency. I don't get directions from anyone," he said. "I was very proud to be asked to serve."

Robb said he really hasn't thought about what he might do after his four years with the NLRB are up.

"To accept the position, I was required to sever all ties with DRM and I am precluded from having outside employment and even talking with anyone about outside employment."

Robb, who born and raised in Connecticut, received his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Maryland School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University. He began his law career in the D.C./Baltimore area, working for a prestigious New York legal firm. When the opportunity came to take a job at Downs Rachlin and Martin, he said he jumped at it.

"I considered it my great escape," he said.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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