Biden to tap new labor board top cop, rescind Trump apprenticeship program

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

By Rebecca Rainey, POLITICO

President Joe Biden will nominate Jennifer Abruzzo, an attorney with the Communications Workers of America, to become the federal labor board’s top cop, the White House said Wednesday.

As first reported by POLITICO, Abruzzo, a former deputy general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board, would replace Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb, who was ousted by Biden last month in a rare exercise of executive power over the labor board. But she will have to get through a Senate confirmation process that could be bruising.

“Abruzzo will bring her more than two decades of experience and knowledge at the NLRB to help rebuild America's middle class,” The White House said in a statement. “Abruzzo will be an important member in supporting the NLRB’s work to build a stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive economy that delivers every American a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead.”

Ahead of a meeting with labor officials Wednesday afternoon, the White House said Biden would also revoke former President Donald Trump’s executive order creating an industry-led apprenticeship program, which sought to reduce the federal government’s role in creating and monitoring such training opportunities.

The Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program created as a result of Trump’s order has been criticized by Democrats, who warned that it did not allow the government to properly oversee the programs it was funding for quality control and effectiveness.
The White House argues that the program has “fewer quality standards” than registered apprenticeship programs that are overseen by the Labor Department. Biden’s Wednesday executive action will direct the agency to issue a rulemaking to dismantle the Trump-era program and reinstate a National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships to provide guidance to the agency.

Biden instead is endorsing Democrats’ National Apprenticeship Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this month. That bill would expand registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, an effort that Democrats say will create nearly 1 million new job training opportunities and generate billions of dollars in benefits for taxpayers.

Abruzzo's nomination is likely to tee up a confirmation battle in the Senate, where Republicans have sharply criticized Biden's move to fire Robb before his term was set to end in November, calling it “unprecedented."

Earlier this month several Republicans sent a letter to the White House questioning whether the Biden transition was influenced by the CWA — Abruzzo's employer — and the Service Employees International Union, pointing to media reports that the unions pushed the idea of firing Robb to the Biden team.

Those critical of the move also suggest that Biden may have cost himself much-needed political capital in the Senate just ahead of Democrats taking control of the agency charged with enforcing federal collective bargaining laws.

Republicans could decide to use the razor-thin vote margins in the Senate to delay Biden’s nominees to the board. In addition to the vacancy for a permanent general counsel, the five-member board currently has an empty Democratic seat and will have another one to fill when Republican member William Emanuel’s term expires in August.