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NLRB Is Refusing to Bargain in Good Faith with Its Own Union?

By Fiona W. Ong - Shawe Rosenthal LLP

August 27, 2020

Oh, the irony! The National Labor Relations Board – the federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, which is the law that governs the relationship between unions and management, and includes the obligation to bargain in good faith – is being accused of failing to bargain in good faith! By its own union!

On August 10, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board Professional Association (NLRBPA), which represents around 120 attorney-employees of the Board, filed a grievance with the Board’s Chairman John Ring and its General Counsel Peter Robb. In the grievance, the NLRBPA said that the Board “has failed and refused to bargain in good faith over new collective bargaining agreements.”

And the NLRBPA is really steamed. According to a Law360 article, NLRBPA President Karen Cook issued a statement about the grievance in which she called Chairman Ring and GC Robb “the nation’s union-busters-in-chief.” She also stated, “By bargaining in bad faith with their own employees, they have laid bare their hostility to the fundamental principles of collective bargaining,” Law360 also reported that the NLRBPA Legislative and Public Affairs Officer Adam Naill said, “The agency whose statutory mission is to promote collective-bargaining has instead sabotaged its collective-bargaining relationship with its own employees by repeatedly, flagrantly attempting to cripple their union and their contract.” (Yikes!)

Perhaps like me, you are wondering what happens now. Does the Board police itself? Could it decide that it violated the Act and punish itself accordingly? Is self-flagellation a possibility?

Well, apparently, the NLRB is not subject to the NLRA. There is another federal labor law – the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute that governs the labor-management relations between (non-postal) federal agencies and their unions. And another federal agency – the Federal Labor Relations Authority that oversees its enforcement. Apparently, any labor disputes between the Board and the NLRBPA will be handled there. So if the grievance is rejected by Chairman Ring and GC Robb, the union could file an unfair labor practice charge with the FLRA.

But in the meantime, employers, join me in a little schadenfreude over the Board’s oh-so-unfortunate situation.

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