Employment Law Report

Obama NLRB Issues First Significant Ruling

By Edwin S. Hopson

As a harbinger of things to come, the National Labor Relations Board, now the “Obama Board,” in St. Barnabas Hospital and Committee of Interns and Residents, Local 1957, SEIU, 355 NLRB No. 39, issued June 3, 2010, declined to grant an employer’s request to review the NLRB Regional Director’s decision to direct a representation election in a unit of hospital residents and interns.  The majority on the NLRB panel, Chairman Liebman and Member Becker, refused to apply the rationale of a 2004 decision in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004), which held that university teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) were not statutory employees.  Rather, the majority found that a 1999 precedent, Boston Medical Center, 330 NLRB 152 (1999), wherein the Board held that medical interns and residents are statutory employees, was still the law. 

In dissent, Member Schaumber, the only Republican on the Board, argued for review based on Brown.

Of course, had the panel granted review, it is doubtful that the Board, now made up of three Democrats (all of whom at one time or another were lawyers who represented unions), and only one Republican, would have ruled in favor of the employer.