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RTD, Union: Cutting Up a Smaller Pie

LABOR / Harry Bernstein

February 13, 1985|HARRY BERNSTEIN

In doing so, he appointed a special five-member panel that will begin hearings today in Van Nuys. Seven days after those hearings begin, the panel must submit to the governor a report on the status of the dispute.

The panel can only describe the offers and counteroffers. Not only is it prohibited from making any binding proposals for a contract settlement, but it also cannot even make any non-binding recommendations, something that it could do until the law was revised in 1982.

After the governor receives that fairly meaningless report showing that, indeed, there is no agreement between management and labor, he can then ask the attorney general to seek a court order prohibiting a strike for up to 60 days to allow time for further negotiations. NLRB Appointments

President Reagan is expected to make two National Labor Relations Board appointments soon, ending what some might call a policy of "benign neglect" toward the agency that enforces federal labor laws.

It can also be argued, however, that there was nothing benign either in the appointments Reagan has made to the board or in his neglect in filling the two board vacancies, one of which has existed since August, 1983, when the term of Howard Jenkins Jr. expired.

The three current board members--all Reagan appointees--are widely regarded as pro-management. In addition, the fact that there has not been a complete board for more than a year and a half has meant further delays in processing charges of unfair labor practices, usually brought by workers.

Of the two names most prominently mentioned as likely Reagan appointees, one is sure to draw more harsh criticism from labor and praise from management. He is Marshall Babson, a management attorney from New Haven, Conn., whose law firm represented Yale University against the unions involved in the recently concluded, bitter 10-week strike of 2,500 clerical and technical employees, mostly women.

The other person being considered is Wilfred W. Johansen of Los Angeles, a career NLRB lawyer who is now serving as director of the NLRB's Region 21, which serves about half of Los Angeles County and Orange, San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties. He is well regarded in both management and labor circles.

Unions have directed most of their criticism of the board to Donald Dotson, its controversial chairman. They have sharply attacked his decisions as anti-labor, but his remarks about unions and his ties to the anti-union National Right to Work Committee have prompted even more attacks.

For instance, an affiliate of the National Right to Work Committee recently set up several Donald R. Dotson Scholarships at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. Dotson's acknowledgment of the tribute at a banquet given by the university and the anti-union committee seemed to indicate an anti-union bias, but Dotson's chief counsel, Charles M. Williamson, denied such an implication.

"The chairman (Dotson) was highly honored. The National Right to Work Committee is a legitimate group, and the honor does not put any taint on him," Williamson said.

A Campbell University spokesman said Dotson was honored because "we put a strong emphasis here on 'right to work' laws, and many of us approve of the changes Mr. Dotson has made as chairman of the NLRB."

Williamson also said Dotson's views on unions have been misconstrued by those who took out of context a statement he made in a letter to the American Bar Assn. Journal.

But a reading of the key part of the letter isn't likely to give much comfort to those who fear that Dotson does have a bias against unions:

"In both the public and private sectors, the strike has come to mean not merely a concerted withholding of labor, but a concerted effort employing violence, intimidation and political intervention to prevent people who want to work from working.

"In other words, collective bargaining frequently means labor monopoly, the destruction of individual freedom and the destruction of the marketplace as the mechanism for determining the value of labor. An employer's right to replace strikers has been rendered meaningless in most major industries."

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