Labor Board Acts to Address Budget Deficit
The National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel has directed the Board’s regional offices to institute cost-cutting measures in light of a significant budget deficit facing the agency for the balance of fiscal year 2016 (ending September 30).
In Memorandum OM-16-09, NLRB Associate General Counsel Anne Purcell instructed regional directors, officers-in-charge, and residents officers to institute cost-saving actions across the full range of Board activities, including representation elections, unfair labor practice investigations and trials, and office administration.
Among the actions being taken are the following:
Board agents are to redouble efforts to avoid hearings and trials by reaching stipulated election agreements (although, under the Board’s new “quickie” election rules, there are fewer issues to litigate at a hearing) and to settle “meritorious” unfair labor practice charges as early in the investigation as possible. (The Board’s pursuit of these goals could help employers in settlement negotiations.)
The hallmark of a Board unfair labor practice investigation had been the face-to-face affidavit. The Memorandum instructs that, in unfair labor practice investigations, the full use of “alternative investigatory techniques,” such as “questionnaires, telephone affidavits, videoconference interviews…position statements and other techniques that reduce or eliminate…travel costs,” is encouraged. The Memorandum also advises investigators to exceed the Board’s time targets (for deciding whether unfair labor practice charges have merit) if doing so can reduce costs; particularly if there are multiple cases involving the same parties or are open in the same locale.
Where cases are going to hearing or trial, in order to reduce travel expenses, the Memo urges that preparation be conducted in the regional office, making use of telephone and videoconferencing to prepare witnesses and for other pre-litigation matters. (Despite this advice, as is the case now, Board attorneys are expected to meet with witnesses twice, but with one meeting occurring on the eve of trial.) Preferably, trials should be conducted at the regional offices to reduce facility rental costs and to permit “inexperienced counsel the opportunity to ‘second chair’ senior counsel as a training exercise.” The General Counsel also will be more receptive to witness testimony by video.
Lastly, confirming that desperate times call for desperate measures, Board staff are instructed to save on paper costs in a number of ways: by foregoing filing post-trial briefs and, instead, encouraging judges to issue bench decisions, utilizing “double-sided photocopying . . . whenever possible,” and using “single space…for documents that are not filed with the Board or courts.”
While the directed actions are focused on the present budget, they also look to be “best practices” that the Board may continue in future years.