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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, November 15, 2001
NLRB - The Basics
Although labor law isn’t quite as interesting as the MVP vote, knowing a little about the subject can help us make sense of the ongoing battle between MLB owners and the Players Association.
Over the course of the negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association I will be writing a series of articles about the offers and strategies of the parties and legal background of collective bargaining in general.
To start I’d like to give everyone a background into the National Labor Relations Act and then get into the Employer’s duty to bargain in good faith as that is the topic of most interest to many readers of the Baseball Primer.
The National Labor Relations Act (hereafter referred to as the NLRA or the Act) 49 Stat. 449 (1935), as amended; 29 U.S.C. Sections 151-69 (1998) covers private sector employees who do not work in the transportation industry as covered by the Railway Labor Act. Public sector employees are covered by state law. Federal sector employees are covered by the Federal Labor Relations Act. Employees are specifically distinguished from independent contractors within Sec. 2(3) of the Act.
The National Labor Relations Board (hereafter referred to as the NLRB or the Board) is made up of five members, but recently due to the Senate approval process, has been made up of fewer than five members. By general custom, the Board is made up of three members from the President’s party, as the President nominates the members, and two from the opposite party. Also, by custom, at least two of the members are considered either pro-union, or pro-management, depending on the President’s posture. Members serve a five year term and successor members only serve the remainder of the five-year term, as if it started the day after the previous member’s term expired. The President also designates a Chairman of the Board. Any three or more members may issue a decision of the Board, and in most cases, especially those that do not break new legal ground or overturn previous Board decisions, the Board designates it’s decision making process to a sub-panel of the Board made up of three members. Each member is usually concurrently on three to five sub-panels made up of various arrangements of Members.
I will not go into any detail on the Board’s duties as they relate to union representation elections as they bear no interest on the current or any previous issues between MLB and the MLBPA.
In Unfair Labor Practices, or ULPs, the five members of the NLRB is a neutral adjudicatory body. The General Counsel is the prosecutorial arm under the NLRA. The General Counsel is also appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The GC serves a four year term. The GC is charged with the final authority in respect to investigations and issuance of complaints, in respect to prosecution of such complaints before the Board. The NLRB has divided it’s jurisdiction into Regional Offices and Resident Posts based upon geographic need. The Regional Offices are made up of a Regional Director and other staff who are under the supervision of the General Counsel. The regional staffs are the first level deputies involved in investigation and prosecution of ULPs. Administrative Law Judges, or ALJs, hear cases prosecuted by the Regional Offices on behalf of the General Counsel. The NLRB is required to review any appeals of decisions of ALJs. The NLRB’s decisions may be appealed to the Federal Circuit Courts. These cases are either brought by the party who lost the case before the Board, against the Board, as a petition of review, or by the NLRB itself as a petition for enforcement. Since the NLRB acts in all of the circuits, and since, on a lot of issues, the circuits are non-conforming, the Board does not consider itself bound by the circuits, except in special circumstances. The Board, however, is bound by the Supreme Court. Generally the circuit courts are supposed to allow the NLRB discretion due to the Board’s great expertise in labor relations matters, so when the circuit’s affirm a Board decision, they usually state that they give great deference to the NLRB. When a circuit reverses the Board, it is common for the circuit to state that the Board went beyond is bounds of expertise. The NLRB is successful in defending its decisions in 70-80% of appeals to the Federal Circuits.
© 2001 Eugene Freedman
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