Former Labor Board Officials Shun Regional Overhaul

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By Chris Opfer and Hassan Kanu

The National Labor Relations Board’s top attorney should scratch plans to revamp the board’s field office system, a group of former NLRB officials recently told General Counsel Peter Robb.

“We believe that the restructuring as proposed clearly misses the mark,” the 56 former regional directors told Robb in a Feb. 6 letter, obtained by Bloomberg Law Feb. 13. The group includes former officials who worked for the board in each presidential administration dating back to Richard Nixon’s.

Robb announced last month that he’s considering tinkering with the NLRB’s field office and regional director system. Those plans are still in early stages but are said to include potentially stripping regional directors of their senior executive status and installing a handful of Washington-based district directors to oversee regional operations.

The proposals have drawn criticism from inside and outside the NLRB, where skeptics say the moves could hamper the agency’s ability to investigate unfair labor practice complaints and oversee union elections. The retired officials said the proposals would make it harder for local offices to resolve cases efficiently through settlement and could violate civil service laws protecting government employees.

The NLRB didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. Sources told Bloomberg Law that Robb thanked the group for the comments but said the input was “premature” because no specific plan has been developed.

Public Notice Coming

Robb told a group of lawyers in New York last week that the potential moves are a response to expected budget cuts. He also said the current setup hasn’t changed since he was a board attorney in the early 1980s, despite a drop in the number of cases the NLRB handles each year.

President Donald Trump Feb. 12 issued a budget request calling for a nearly 9 percent reduction in NLRB funding. That’s a largely aspirational proposal, which isn’t likely to be approved by Congress.

“I think working together we can get a plan together and continue our mission and improve what we’re doing without any drop in service to you all,” Robb said at the Labor and Employment Relations Association event. “When we get a plan together we will be sharing it publicly.”

Robb and NLRB Chairman Marvin Kaplan (R) have also said that the five-member board will have an opportunity to review any proposed changes.

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