President Donald Trump has released a budget proposal reducing the National Labor Relations Board’s funding in fiscal year 2018 by nearly six percent. It also calls for significant staff reductions at a time when the agency’s caseload is projected to increase.
Under the proposal, the Board’s funding would be reduced by $16 million, from $274 million to $258 million, which would result in the lowest total operating budget for the Board since 2009. The reduced budget will require the Board to reduce staff from approximately 1,596 to 1,320 – well below the 15-year average of 1,700 full-time employees.
The NLRB had sought additional funding to “efficiently and effectively” process “comprehensive and complex cases,” such as “nationwide efforts to improve the wages … of retail and fast food workers,” “expanded use of mandatory arbitration clauses in employment” agreements, and the expanded use of technology and social media by employees to discuss employment outside the workplace, among other things.
The budget also includes an “administrative provision” prohibiting use of appropriations to adopt electronic voting in union representation elections. In the past, the NLRB had asked vendors to submit possible solutions on secure methods for electronic balloting, but had not acted on the subject.
What could the budget cut mean for your business? The budget has not been passed by Congress, and there likely will be significant congressional debate over funding of the NLRB (and other agencies, such as the Department of Labor, which also may face significant budget cuts). If the budget passes with significant cuts, expect the following:
- The NLRB to ramp up the pressure on employers, unions, and employees to settle unfair labor practice charges early to avoid NLRB personnel having to travel to speak to potential witnesses.
- The NLRB to loosen its time targets for deciding whether unfair labor practice charges have merit in the hopes that, given more time, a case can be settled.
- The possibility of less-prepared NLRB witnesses in unfair labor practice trials because possibly overtaxed NLRB attorneys will not have been able to meet with witnesses as much as in the past.
- Requests by the Board to administrative law judges to permit witness testimony by video to avoid having to pay witness travel costs.
- The NLRB to struggle to process representation petitions quickly, which has been a key focus of the agency since the “quickie” election rules were implemented in April 2015.
Employers must adapt to these and other possible changes if the budget cut is approved. We will monitor the budgetary process and report on significant developments.