The National Labor Relations Board will soon offer buyouts and early retirement to eligible staffers in its regional offices and headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to an agency e-mail obtained by Bloomberg Law.
The move is likely to continue or accelerate the board’s trend toward a smaller footprint. Congress hasn’t increased the NLRB’s funding in at least four years, and agency staff has decreased significantly through attrition since 2002. The agency’s Republican leadership has been operating under an effective hiring freeze.
The federal labor board safeguards employees’ rights to organize and decide whether to have a union in their workplace. It also adjudicates unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. The board’s roughly 26 regional offices are another avenue for businesses, unions, or individual workers to seek a remedy for unfair workplace practices.
The agency cut “nearly 20% of its field staff” in recent years to make ends meet, according to its employees’ union. There are currently about 200 vacancies in its field offices, including some large regional offices that are without a director—such as Region 1, in Boston. Staffers in that office are currently overseen by and reporting to the regional director in Buffalo, N.Y.
The NLRB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The board is in the “final planning stages for the offering of the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) Authority programs,” according to the e-mail announcement sent late June 21. The Office of Personnel Management has already authorized the VERA request, which was initially filed by former NLRB chairman Philip Miscimarra (R) and former General Counsel Richard Griffin.
Federal agencies that are downsizing or restructuring can offer buyouts and “early outs” to eligible employees. The early out program expands retirement eligibility to certain employees in particular position grades. The government’s VSIP buyout program allows the agency to offer up to $25,000 for voluntary retirement.