President Obama’s pro-union labor board has been sanctioned for bargaining in bad faith with its own union.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal government’s top labor arbiter, was sanctioned by the Federal Labor Relations Authority for refusing to include its union in discussions about an office relocation. The union called for two days of bargaining over potential locations and office furniture, but labor officials found themselves ambushed with denials and counterproposals from the agency’s negotiating team.
The union alleged that "the Agency unilaterally made decisions about the design and layout of the new headquarters" and refused to continue negotiations after the two-day session.
Administrative law Judge Richard Pearson ruled that the agency used "arbitrary" deadlines to bypass union input and refused mediation in bad faith.
"There was a strong potential for further and productive bargaining, if only the Agency had the patience to persist beyond its arbitrary deadline," the ruling, which was first obtained by Politico, said. "The Agency violated its duty to bargain and deprived the Union of a proper opportunity to negotiate the impact and implementation of the move to a new headquarters."
The NLRB and union president John Mantz did not return requests for comment.
The National Labor Relations Board Union represents 122 employees who work for the agency, including 65 who were forced to relocate to the new headquarters. The unaffiliated union’s most recent filings with the Department of Labor revealed that it collected about $20,000 from its members last year and spent more than $50,000 on professional fees in 2014.
Labor watchdogs said that the punishment is poetic justice.
Since 2010 the NLRB has been staffed by a majority of pro-union Democratic appointees by the Obama administration. During that time the agency has overturned decades of precedents to allow for "ambush elections," micro-unions, and liability for franchisers—all of which have been criticized by labor attorneys and Congress as hand outs to labor unions.
Former NLRB chairman Peter Schaumber said that it is fitting for the agency to experience the "burden imposed on employers" from federal labor regulators.
"This finding against the NLRB demonstrates just how willing the Obama Board is to ignore obligations it routinely imposes on private employers as well as the burden imposed on employers having to bargain with a union over relatively minor changes in work conditions necessitated due to changing market conditions," Schaumber said.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, told the Washington Free Beacon that the agency is now finding out what life is like for employers who have had to deal with the board.
"The Board has plenty of patience for union bosses who stubbornly cling to their workplace privileges in the face of employee opposition, but I guess that patience only extends to unions they don’t have to deal with in their own workplace," Mix said. "The NLRB’s regulatory regime is so complicated and bureaucratic that even they can’t follow it. They punish independent minded workers and employers with regularity but apparently don’t understand their own rules."
Heather Greenaway, director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, said the agency leaders had "gotten a taste of their pro-union ideology," but said the ruling will have little effect on the agency, unlike employers who have business before the board. The agency, she said, has the benefit of taxpayer support to offset costs imposed by the union complaint.
"The NLRB under this administration has encouraged a petulant union environment," Greenaway said. "Most unfortunate are the American businesses that have to suffer through these 'bargaining' rules, while actual day-to-day business suffers."
Pearson ordered the board to post notices in its workplace admitting its bad faith bargaining and pledging not to violate its employees’ labor rights in the future.
"WE WILL NOT terminate bargaining over the relocation of our headquarters offices in Washington, D.C.," the notice says. "WE WILL NOT, in any like or related manner, interfere with, restrain, or coerce bargaining unit employees in the exercise of the rights assured them."