NLRB Employees Object to Admin's Cost-Cutting Measures

Regional directors bristle at possible consolidation at the labor arbiter

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January 29, 2018

Regulators at the top federal labor arbiter have "grave concerns" about the Trump administration's plan to restructure the agency.

Representatives of the 26 regional directors at the National Labor Relations Board, which polices labor disputes and oversees union elections, submitted a letter to General Counsel Peter B. Robb to voice their objections to plans to shutter and restructure field offices. The regional directors are charged with on the ground enforcement of federal labor laws, handling and investigating complaints of unfair labor practices lodged against employers and labor groups. Robb reportedly plans to consolidate the various regional offices and cut the pay of regional directors by reclassifying their status.

"The possible establishment of large Districts in the field, elimination of Regions … would have a severe and negative impact on our Agency," the letter, first obtained by Bloomberg, says. "Disproportional cuts to the field offices will exponentially negatively impact the Agency's ability to enforce [federal law]."

Regional directors now have the power to render decisions about whether or not alleged violations of federal labor law deserve to be prosecuted. A consolidation of offices could remove that decision-making from the local level to regulators many miles away.

The agency said looming cuts are responsible for efforts to restructure its operations, though the regional directors claim in their letter that Robb would reorganize "regardless of budgetary considerations." The Trump administration proposed a $258 million budget for the agency in the 2018 fiscal year, down from the $273 million it spent in 2017. Congress may cut even further after a House subcommittee approved a proposed $249 million budget, an 11 percent cut.

"The Agency will continue to be fiscally responsible, assess operational structure, and save costs wherever it can," the budget request said.

Robb, who was confirmed to the position in November, has sought input from the regional directors, informing them of cost-cutting proposals during a Jan. 11 conference call, according to Bloomberg. An agency spokesman said no plans have been set in stone and that the general counsel is exploring his options given looming budget cuts.

"Given budgetary issues, the General Counsel is assessing the current organizational structure for possible changes and, if warranted, will work with the organization to develop potential plans to be shared publicly," the agency said in an email. "At this time, no specific plan involving the restructuring of our organization has been developed."

Any major change to the agency's restructuring of operations and personnel would require the approval of the five-member board. Republicans and Democrats each have two appointees on the board, as the Senate weighs the confirmation of Trump nominee John Ring, a management-side attorney at Morgan Lewis.