PHILADELPHIA - A National Labor Relations Board decision on related cases involving Dana Corp. and Metaldyne Corp. was at the heart of a dispute last week among members of the board during a recent legal conference here.
It was part of what labor lawyers are calling the September Massacre - 61 decisions handed down by the board in one month, the majority of which, they said, went against workers' ability to join unions and reflect what they say is President Bush's anti-union bias.
"The board and the board's decision-making have become much more divisive," Wilma Liebman, a Democratic appointee to the board told more than 300 lawyers during a panel at the American Bar Association's national labor and employment law conference last week.
Board member Peter Schaum-
ber, a Republican appointee, said the minority dissents in board opinions have bordered on the disrespectful.
The five-member board has three members from the president's party and two from the opposition.
The Dana and Metaldyne cases involve labor's most successful membership-building technique: persuading management to recognize a union when most workers sign union cards, skipping the cumbersome traditional secret-election process.
The Dana case stemmed from a complaint by a former employee in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
The Sept. 29 decision by the NLRB said employers must post a sign telling workers they can appeal this type of voluntary recognition within 45 days.
Labor lawyers are angered that no similar sign is required to tell workers that they are allowed to unionize.
The decision "undermines the voluntary recognition process - a long tradition that has been accepted and enforced under the law," said panelist Sarah Fox, a Washington lawyer and former NLRB member and Democratic appointee.
Panelist Patricia Slovak, a management lawyer from Schiff Hardin LLP in Chicago, countered, "I think the board is trying to set up a situation to accommodate that growing card-check method within the rubric of the act."
Charles Cohen, a former Republican NLRB member who did not attend the debate, said deadline pressure pushed the board to finish 20 percent of its work in one month as its fiscal year closed Sept. 30.
The board "has gotten out a lot of the controversial decisions," Mr. Cohen said, "and it is a more conservative board.