All unfair labor practice hearings have been canceled by National Labor Relations Board officials because of a budget shortfall that has hampered the federal agency and threatened its employees with temporary layoffs.
The cancellations affect every NLRB field and regional office in the nation, including the office in San Diego. William Pate, NLRB deputy regional attorney in Los Angeles, said the shortage of funds has caused the cancellations of 10 hearings in the region and one in San Diego that began on Monday.
The San Diego hearing resulted from unfair labor practice charges that were leveled against the Union-Tribune Publishing Co. by the San Diego Newspaper Guild during a bitter and lengthy contract dispute that ended earlier this year.
Guild administrative officer Bill Knight said he was “disappointed and shocked” by the sudden cancellation on the same day the hearing began. The hearing was scheduled to continue Tuesday and Wednesday.
County labor leaders reacted with anger Tuesday when told that NLRB investigators were instructed by agency officials in Washington to curtail their queries into charges of unfair labor practices lodged by labor unions and employers.
“This means the whole process (investigating allegations of unfair labor practice) will be delayed,” said Joe Francis, executive secretary-treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. “It’s not the swiftest process to begin with.”
Francis, who is the top labor official in the county, said any hearing delays or cancellations caused by the NLRB’s budget woes will favor employers.
“Essentially, most of the charges presented to the NLRB are made by labor,” said Francis. “Delays have been a standard tactic of employers. This will only help employers. This will have a tremendous effect on labor relations.”
Claude Marston, resident officer of the San Diego NLRB office, said he and his fellow workers were ordered Monday to cancel all hearings on calendar for September and not to schedule any new ones.
He said it’s uncertain if any hearings will be scheduled in October.
Marston said Tuesday that he was not sure how many local hearings would have been scheduled in September.
Pate, from the NLRB regional office in Los Angeles, said he does not know the size of the budget shortfall or what caused it.
“I don’t know the details for the reason for the shortage of funds,” Pate said. “But there has been a shortage that requires a curtailment of our activities until the end of the fiscal year.”
The federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
Marston said that travel to investigate allegations of unfair labor practice was also “severely limited,” forcing NLRB investigators to ask witnesses to drive to downtown San Diego to be interviewed.
“We can still investigate unfair labor practice charges, but that’s about all we can do for the moment,” said Marston.
The eight employees of the San Diego NLRB office have also been notified that they will be laid off for eight days in October, Marston added. Six of the employees are investigators and attorneys.