Is the National Labor Relations Board a Neutral Agency? Not According to Its Union President!

By on August 21, 2007 in Current Events with 0 Comments

In a press release dated August 19, 2007, NLRB union president Eric Brooks called for the resignation of Board General Counsel Ronald Meisburg if he (Meisburg) won’t obey a Federal Labor Relations Authority order to bargain with Brooks’ union. 

Brooks, who claims to represent 1000 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) employees, says in his release that the “The Agency responsible for protecting employee rights should not be permitted to deliberately violate the bargaining rights of its own employees. When the NLRB – of all agencies – violates the very heart of federal labor law law (sic?), it signals public and private sector respondents that it’s fine to violate the nation’s labor laws with impunity. The FLRA’s action is the first step in stopping Labor Board lawlessness in its tracks.” (My emphasis) (See NLRB v. FLRA: Round Two Coming Up; and NLRBU Pickets and Exchanges Press Releases With Management)

I think Mr. Brooks may have overstated his case about Mr. Meisner’s lawlessness but may also have revealed a fundamental problem with so-called neutrality in Federally regulated labor relations, both public and private.  The Board, on its website, in reference to the National Labor Relations Act, says, “Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”   That’s a bit different than Mr. Brooks’ stated view.

Having worked with a Federal Agency general counsel or two, I discovered that the people in these positions jealously guard their Agency’s statutory prerogatives from challenges with substantial fervor.  It’s what they do. 

The case that is causing this ruckus is no different.  FLRA has a checkered history of interpreting other Agency’s laws despite circuit and Supreme Court admonitions to the contrary. Under the Federal system, FLRA’s bargaining unit determinations are not directly appealable to the courts. The Board’s GC is claiming (not to presume his argument) that NLRB’s own statute trumps the FLRA order and should as a statute. 

Sorry, Mr. Brooks, but this hardly can be construed to “violate the nation’s labor law with impunity”.  I have spent a career in Federal labor relations listening to some pretty overblown union rhetoric and I recently read a quote by John Podesta that catches the idea perfectly.  He said “So I think it’s important to communicate with the people in terms of what the real facts are on these proposals and try to have a discussion and a dialogue that gives people information. I think they’re hungry for that rather than just political rhetoric.”  (Of course, Mr. Brooks could be running for reelection and may need a sound bite.)

More important, though, is whether Mr.  Brooks’ view and those of the NLRB employees he represents of the Board’s overall role should be worrisome to us as taxpayers. It’s no surprise that adamant union advocates would demand that NLRB’s staff be permitted union representation. Likewise it should be no surprise that a company which deals with NLRB would doubt its ability to get a fair shake listening to the NLRBU’s rhetoric. 

Neutral? You be the judge.

© 2016 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.


About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.