St. Louis – Labor leaders and members of the labor bar are voicing their objections to a proposal by the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) to consolidate operations of the St. Louis regional office with the office in Kansas City.
The NLRB is considering a pilot program that would merge its St. Louis regional office with the office in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.
If approved, the consolidation would place NLRB employees in St. Louis (Region 14) under the leadership of a regional director headquarter in Overland Park (Region 17).
The current regional director in St. Louis, Chip Harrell, is scheduled to become the new regional director in Atlanta.
The plan would also shift jurisdiction over Peoria (Subregion 33) and central Illinois from St. Louis to the NLRB regional office in Indianapolis (Region 25).
Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said it makes no sense to shift oversight from St. Louis, which received 800 cases in 2011, ranking it 15th among the 32 regions spread across the country, to Kansas City, which ranked 32nd, with only 375 cases.
“We want the regional office to stay in St. Louis, and we want a Regional Director there,” McVey said. “There is no reason why we would not have an office in the place where all the business is.”
IRRATIONAL AND UNJUSTIFIED
The NLRB, in a memo dated Feb. 27, said the proposal is part of an ongoing effort to improve efficiencies in its regional structure.
But Cary Hammond, an attorney who represents the Greater St. Louis Labor Council and Teamsters Joint Council 13 with his firm, Hammond and Shinners, P.C. said the proposal to consolidate the St. Louis and Kansas City offices will create “considerable and unnecessary inconvenience” to unions and employers in the St. Louis area.
“It is a totally irrational and unjustifiable position,” Hammond said. “There are two-and-a-half to three times the cases processed in St. Louis as in Kansas City. There is truly no way you can defend this decision on the merits.”
The NLRB notes that “no offices would be closed” under the plan, but Hammond and other lawyers familiar are skeptical.
Chris Grant, an attorney with the firm Schuchat, Cook & Werner, said “The labor bar’s concern is that by not filling the regional director vacancy here in St. Louis they’re going to be shifting management to Kansas City, which means we will not have a regional director here and, over time, higher level managers will be shifted to Kansas City.”
Grant, who focuses on labor, wage and hour, prevailing wage, and employment discrimination law, coordinated the drafting of a letter signed by members of the labor bar and sent to the NLRB headquarters in Washington, D.C., which outlines the bars concerns regarding the proposal. The letter asks the Board to fill the Regional Director vacancy in St. Louis and keep the Peoria office under St. Louis.
“The plan would create greater inefficiency, deprive our clients of services and hinder outreach,” the letter states. “In time, it would likely lead to the St. Louis office shrinking, which would hurt the Board as a whole, the staff in St. Louis, and our clients even more.”
HIGHER PRIORITY CASES
Greg Campbell, another attorney with the Hammond and Shinners law firm, who specializes in the representation of labor unions and employees benefit funds, said the proposed consolidation makes no sense from any standard.
“If you look at the comparative numbers, the St. Louis office handles twice as many cases as the Kansas City, Kan. (Overland Park) office. It processes higher priority cases. There is a higher union density in the St. Louis region. It really makes no sense to consolidate the St. Louis region into the Kansas City, Kan. region when the statistics show that a regional director needs to be here in St. Louis.”
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
The NLRB is accepting comments on the proposed pilot consolidation through March 26 and is expected to make a final decision on the proposal in early April.
To voice opposition to the plan, contact your U.S. Senator or Representative and urge them to tell the NLRB not to consolidate the St. Louis and Kansas City offices.
You can also write to NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon or Associate General Counsel Anne Purcell at National Labor Relations Board, 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20570 or email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.