Did I Miss Something or Did FLRA Recently Declare NLRB Unable to Understand a Unit Issue?

The FLRA has labor relations experts. The NLRB also hasLR experts and has been around much longer deciding cases similar to those decided by the FLRA. The FLRA recently had the opportunity to tell the NLRB it was not taking the correct approach in making a unit determination for its own employees.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been conducting representational elections for more than 75 years but according to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) took the wrong position on a unit case involving its own employees.  The case 62 FLRA No. 9 involved a unit consolidation petition by NLRB’s union to consolidate four units.  The NLRB objected and the FLRA’s Regional Director (RD) shot their case down. 

On March 14, 2007, the FLRA (two of the FLRA members anyhow) upheld the RD and ordered the consolidation and an election by the professionals (lawyers in this case) to see if they want their own consolidated lawyer unit or be included with the more common men and women deprived by fate of a JD, LLB or other similar wall hanging.
A lot of FLRA employees started out at the NLRB and reportedly carry a chip on their shoulder about being looked down on by their former, older and arguably more prestigious employer.  Also interesting, in light of a prior article, is the FLRA’s disregard for NLRB’s claim that the Board’s legislation precluded the ruling.  The FLRA which regularly expects deference on its own statutory expertise from the courts wasn’t ready to afford NLRB the same. 

Perhaps the reasoning goes this way: since FLRA appears to have disregarded its own statute by recognizing a union of its own, who is NLRB to claim its legislation could possibly impact an internal unit recognition issue?
It will be interesting to see if the NLRB tries to move the case into the courts.  FLRA’s unit determination decisions, at least up to now, have not been reviewable.  However, the courts like nothing better than a little internecine squabbling between agencies particularly when just about everyone involved is an attorney.  The case is worth a read if for no other reason than to visualize the virtually absolute thrill the nouveau labor relations folks at FLRA had to be feeling while preparing to lecture their elder, arguably wiser but certainly more established counterparts.  It sets one to wondering whether circulating within the FLRA there are versions of the decision that they “wouldda really liked” to have issued.  I’m also curious if the mailer of the decision dropped it into the box while shouting “na na na na na na!”

The views expressed in this article are mine and mine alone.

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.