In response to new National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb’s proposed changes to case processing and regional office structure, two groups of senior managers and organizations representing the Board’s front-line staff deemed Robb’s ideas an “existential threat” aimed to destroy the NLRB from the inside. A group of NLRB associate regional directors indicated the potential moves have caused general anxiety Agency-wide and have noticeably hurt morale in the field.

To increase efficiency due to possible budget cuts and a decline in the number of cases handled by the NLRB, Robb proposed eliminating or combining certain field offices, eliminating the senior executive status of the regional managers, and shifting more decision-making to the Board’s office in Washington, D.C., among other changes. Further, Robb has proposed for review by NLRB employees 59 ideas to overhaul how unfair labor practice complaints are processed and how union elections are handled. Some of the ideas include: shorter investigation times, strict time limits on responses before dismissal, and entrusting investigators with authority to dismiss cases, approve settlements, or withdraw a union’s complaint without regional director approval.

The groups responding to Robb agree with some of his proposals (including placing an emphasis on early resolution of unfair labor practice complaints through settlement), but fear the majority of Robb’s ideas will “contravene” the mission of the NLRB. The regional directors stressed Robb “reread” the opening section of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA establishes that the mission of the NLRB is to protect workers’ rights and encourage collective action by overseeing union elections and adjudicating unfair labor practice complaints.

While the business and management community has supported Robb’s proposals, NLRB employees have sought congressional intervention over concerns about a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures introduced by Robb and NLRB Chairman Marvin Kaplan. The union representing NLRB workers has indicated Robb and Kaplan incorrectly based their cost-cutting measures on White House budget requests, instead of actual funding provided by Congress. As expected, Robb’s proposed changes have been met with opposition from Democratic lawmakers and worker advocates. A recent letter from 56 retired regional directors also opposed Robb’s reorganization proposals for field offices.

Employers should keep an eye on these developments, as they may significantly impact how NLRB matters are going to be handled. The emphasis on settlement could result in NLRB agents applying earlier and greater pressure on charged parties to settle or being more willing to be flexible in settlement discussions. If you have any questions on this developing story, please feel free to contact the Jackson Lewis Labor and Preventive Practices attorney with whom you work.

Photo of Howard M. Bloom Howard M. Bloom

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification campaigns. He also represents clients at the National Labor Relations Board in connection with bargaining unit issues, objections and challenges, as well as unfair labor practice investigations and trials. Mr. Bloom also has been the spokesperson at countless first and successor contract collective bargaining negotiations, and regularly advises on collective bargaining agreement administration issues, including grievance/arbitration issues.

Mr. Bloom has appeared before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, several U.S. District Courts, the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Mr. Bloom speaks frequently to employer groups on a wide range of labor and employment law topics. He also has written extensively on labor and employment law for a variety of publications, including New England Business magazine, The Boston Globe and the Boston Business Journal. He also is editor of and a frequent contributor to the Jackson Lewis Labor & Collective Bargaining Blog.

While attending law school, he was the Executive Editor of The Advocate: the Suffolk University Law School Journal and President of the Student Bar Association.

Mr. Bloom is a diehard baseball fan. His first book, The Baseball Uncyclopedia: A Highly Opinionated Myth-Busting Guide to the Great American Game, was published in February 2006.

Photo of Philip B. Rosen Philip B. Rosen

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Rosen also leads the firm’s Labor Practice Group. He joined the Firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-in-force, purchase/sale transactions, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct rules, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and other workplace litigation, corporate campaigns and union organizing matters, collective bargaining, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. He has been quoted by the press on many labor matters, including the National Labor Relations Board’s recent initiatives on protected concerted activity and the proposed Notice Posting requirements.