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The NLRB is a Hostile Work Environment

The department tasked with protecting labor is breaking labor law

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by Guest Post on
Nov 26, 2019

This post was written by the IBEW Media Department.

The National Labor Relations Board’s own workers rallied Monday against management abuses affecting their union’s ability to represent them, signaling new depths of the agency’s union-busting agenda.

“This is an agency dedicated to promoting collective-bargaining and protecting workers’ right to organize, so it is especially shameful to see our leadership engage in such blatant conduct,” Karen Cook, president of the NLRB Professional Association said in a statement.

Protesting outside the NLRB’s Washington headquarters, career staffers called out board Chairman John Ring and General Counsel Peter Robb for unprecedented attacks on two employee unions, Bloomberg Law reported.

The conduct is in line with escalating action by the board’s GOP majority that is targeting private sector workers nationwide. Decisions and new rules allow employers to eject union organizers from public spaces, more easily withdraw union recognition, discriminate against union members in the workplace, thwart protests and undermine the rights of employees at subcontractors and franchises, among other rollbacks.

The latest challenge for workers inside the NLRB, at headquarters and in satellite offices nationwide, are two Trump administration executive orders designed to break federal unions and make it easier to fire employees.

Union leaders charge that management has exceeded the already-hostile scope of the orders, which, among other things, allow agencies to curtail the paid time and access to physical space at worksites that make effective representation possible.

“They’re doing it because they think they can get away with it. There’s no recourse,” Michael Bilik, the legislative co-chair of the NLRB union, told Politico. “Going beyond the executive orders is an abuse of power that undermines the civil service.”

NLRB staffers also take issue with the agency’s failure to spend its full budget the past two fiscal years, suggesting it is another sign of animus toward both federal employees and aggrieved private sector workers who seek justice through the board.

Bloomberg reported on the budget surpluses earlier in November, writing that Ring and Robb “recently implemented a number of changes to the way that the agency investigates unfair labor practice cases and how the five-member board issues decisions in those cases… The Board has also offered staff buyouts and left certain open positions unfilled, citing anticipated budget cuts.”

The leftover funds at the end of fiscal year 2019 on Sept. 30 amounted to $5.7 million, out of the $274 million that has been allocated to the agency each of the past six years. Federal law generally requires agencies to spent their allocated resources as directed by Congress.

Last year’s surplus raised enough eyebrows that the Government Accountability Office investigated, but it closed the probe without issuing a public report of its findings.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who joined the rally along with Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, told Bloomberg Law that Democrats plan to investigate further.

“It’s a misuse of funds,” said DeLauro, who serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and chairs its subcommittee on labor agencies. “We’re taking a very hard look into all that.”

NLRB workers have protested the cuts previously, and don’t buy claims that unspent funds are merely a matter of increased efficiency, the explanation a board spokesman gave Bloomberg in an Oct. 31 email.

The union responded: “For two years, the steady drumbeat from our leadership has been that employees need to make sacrifices to satisfy the president’s looming austerity budgets, which, predictably, has greatly undermined employee morale. So when we learn that, for the second year in a row, the agency has failed to spend the money that it was appropriated by Congress, the vague explanations in the email do not soften the blow.”

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said it’s all part of a disturbing pattern at the NLRB.

“There appears to be no end to the ways that the board majority and general counsel are pushing their anti-worker agenda and harming the rights and economic security of millions of working Americans and their families – now including their own staff,” he said.

“The only way to change course is by changing the politicians who appoint and confirm NLRB members. It’s more urgent than ever that we do that at the ballot box next November.”

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