U.S. budget bill includes first increase for labor board since 2014

The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Labor agency would get 9% increase to $299 million
  • Agency's budget has been stagnant for nearly a decade
  • Officials recently warned of furloughs, operating cuts

(Reuters) - A massive bipartisan spending bill unveiled by U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday would give the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) its first budget increase in nearly a decade, after the agency warned of staff cuts if does not receive more money.

The $1.7 trillion budget bill, which Congress must pass by Friday to avoid a lapse in government funding, proposes raising the board's budget by $25 million to $299 million, a 9% increase from funding levels that have been stagnant since 2014.

NLRB officials last month told members of congressional budget committees that inflation and increased labor costs are eating into the board's budget, and the agency would have to furlough employees and slash operating costs without a spending hike.

The board and President Joe Biden, a Democrat, had requested $319 million in funding for the agency. In its 2022 spending proposal, the NLRB said a budget of about $302 million would allow the agency to hire 150 additional staffers.

An NLRB spokeswoman declined to comment on the bill.

The National Labor Relations Board Union, which represents staff at the board's Washington, D.C. headquarters, said the $25 million increase would avoid "funding Armageddon," at least for now.

"The NLRB has been left dramatically understaffed after nearly a decade of flat funding, and this is not enough to replenish the agency," the union said. "But breaking the streak is a tremendous accomplishment for Board advocates."

The budget bill unveiled on Tuesday retains language first passed by Congress in 2014 that bars the NLRB from spending money on implementing electronic voting in union elections.

Democrats have moved in the past to lift that restriction, but have not been able to overcome objections from Republican lawmakers.

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.