NLRB Union Continues Picketing As Labor Relations Agencies Continue Their Battle

The Federal Labor Relations Authority has previously found that allowing professional employees in one unit to represent employees in another bargaining unit violates federal law. That decision may be relevant in an ongoing battle between the FLRA and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

To hear the union tell it, labor oppression and statutory violation by the leadership of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues. But there may be another side or two to the story. In fact, the union may owe the Agency some money. Read on.

In its September 10 press release, the National Labor Relations Board Union said:

"The dispute between the NLRB and the Union dates back to 2005 when the NLRB changed its policy and refused to permit its professional employees to represent support staff employees in union matters on work time. The NLRB began denying official time for all cross-unit representation. The Union responded by petitioning the Federal Labor Relations Authority to consolidate the professional and support staff employees into a single unit."

While open to another view, it appears that the union was using professional employees in one unit to represent employees in another unit. FLRA has found such a practice to violate law. In fact as recently as 2005, in a case involving FAA and NATCA, (61 FLRA No. 35) the Authority ruled:

"Thus, Authority and judicial precedent applying § 7131 confirms that Congress adopted a unit approach to official time for representational activities, and in so doing prohibited the granting of official time under § 7131(d) for union representatives employed in one bargaining unit to represent employees employed in a different bargaining unit."

Now, here are all these union representatives, presumably lawyers from NLRB’s professional unit, violating the law by representing employees in the non-professional unit. Were they ignorant of the law? Was that an excuse? Has the union no responsibility for statutory compliance regardless of Agency practice? Did they take government paid official time illegally?

In any case, the Agency put a stop to it and the union sought to fix its problem with a unit petition. The NLRB General Counsel is engaged in a legal battle with FLRA’s General Counsel over the unit. The union claims the General Counsel, Ronald Meisburg, is deliberately violating the labor law by not agreeing with FLRA.

The FLRA’s General Counsel has issued a unfair labor practice filed complaint and is seeking a summary judgment from an FLRA Administrative Law Judge. The NLRB will not recognize a mixed unit at the Agency because it believes such a unit violates NLRB’s statute.

In the meantime, the union seeks to win by embarrassment through picketing Chairman Robert J. Battista’s Keynote Address at a symposium in Chicago.

The hypocrisy of the union in alleging an Agency statutory violation while litigation is ongoing is particularly interesting in that its own violation of the law started the whole matter. Based on the union’s admission, I wonder if the Agency could recoup the official time the union representatives received for the illegal representation work particularly in light of their claimed expertise concerning the law.

The NLRBU’s financial report at the Department of Labor’s website indicates there’s plenty of money available. A better idea might be a voluntary payback by the union to the government. If NLRBU is claiming the high road, it may want to pay the toll.

Any opinion you believe expressed above is mine and mine alone. Some commenters to earlier articles have claimed I’m a shill for management. Maybe so, but I hope a different take on issues may advance understanding of what may really be going on. While a Fed and whenever I work for the Feds, I was and am severely constrained in expressing an opinion. So in matters about which I have few restraints, it’s liberating to be able to express a view however unpopular. As Buddha said, "Be a lamp unto yourself. Work out your liberation with diligence."

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.