As unions continue to fall, is more money at the NLRB really needed?
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board’s union asked to meet with the Senate Appropriations Committee to plead for funding to hire more NLRB employees.
Here are the facts:
The union that represents attorneys, investigators and administrative staff working for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is asking the Senate Appropriations Committee for more funds to replace staff that have left due to attrition.
However, when one examines the NLRB’s case load, one must wonder whether the union’s request is justified.
In a letter dated in late March to Sens. Roy Blunt [R-MO] and Patty Murray [D-WA], the National Labor Relations Board Union (NLRBU) complained about the “staffing crisis in the field” due to attrition, saying that it has “intensified” under current agency leadership.
“The NLRB’s recent budget cuts have created an unprecedented staffing crisis in the field through attrition. Between FY11 and FY17, the Agency lost about 18% of its field staff — down from 1136 to 928 FTEs nationwide. The crisis has intensified under current Agency leadership. In just the two short years since Director Mulvaney’s ‘rightsizing’ memo was issued, the NLRB field has contracted by an additional 17%, as hiring in the field was ground to a halt by current leadership in November 2017. Unless Congress intervenes, at the current rate of attrition, the NLRB’s field FTEs would plummet to 768 by the end of FY19 — an outrageous 32% freefall in only eight years.”
“The continued slashing of the Agency’s appropriations is not supported by any evidence of a reduced need for resources to enforce federal labor laws. Even with respect to solely numeric data — which does not accurately reflect the complexity of our work — the overall workload of the NLRB has remained relatively steady since FY17, further highlighting the adverse effects of the 17% drop in field staff during the same period.”
According to the NLRB union’s financial reports on file with the Department of Labor, the union’s membership has indeed fallen over the years–from 759 in 2009 to 661 in 2018.
However, during that same time period the amount of unfair labor practice charges processed by the NLRB has also fallen by over 4,000 charges per year, or 17%, according to NRLB data.
During the same period, just as charges processed by the NLRB have been falling, the number of representation petitions that the NLRB processed has also fallen–from 2082 in 2009 to 1597 in 2018–a drop of 23.29%.
While the NLRB Union is right that its membership has fallen, so too has the case load at the National Labor Relations Board.
Further, if the NLRB’s caseload continues to fall as it has for nearly two decades, there may be little reason to increase funding at all.