Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Director of Nlrb Here Is Team Player

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Director of Nlrb Here Is Team Player

Article excerpt

The community Ralph R. Tremain grew up in - Salina in central Kansas - was no hotbed of labor activity.

"It's only a slight exaggeration to say that if they knew somebody was a labor organizer, they'd run him out of town," Tremain recalls of his hometown, which he calls "the last outpost of civilization on Route 70 between central Kansas and Denver."

For some reason, he cultivated an interest in labor-management relations, stemming perhaps from his high school debating days. He chose labor by default - agriculture was the other topic.

Tremain took what related courses he could at the University of Kansas and at its law school. After graduating he got a job with the National Labor Relations Board, planning to spend about four years honing his craft before opening a law practice. It was 1967 and Lyndon Johnson was president.

Monday, 26 years into his NLRB career, Tremain took over as regional director in St. Louis - covering the city, 45 counties in Missouri and 50 counties in Illinois.

In short, he's the top federal official investigating and remedying unfair labor practices by local companies or unions, as well as overseeing efforts by employees to gain union representation. As companies seek to reshape themselves in more competitive forms, and workers try to protect jobs, he'll have to ensure that neither side improperly gains advantages in collective bargaining.

This fiscal year, with one month left, the NLRB here has handled 807 cases of unfair labor practices and 145 union representation cases.

Tremain, 50, had spent his entire NLRB stint in Indiana, starting as a staff attorney and ending as regional attorney overseeing the legal staff. Before becoming a supervisor, he was deeply involved in the 2,000-member, independent union representing NLRB employees.

Here, he'll oversee a staff of 31 - clerical employees, field examiners and lawyers, supervisors and managers - based at 10th and Washington downtown.

Though clearly unused to discussing himself and his approach to work, he did just that Tuesday - three days after moving to St. Louis.

"I'm a great believer in a style of management that allows people to contribute to the operation of the office, in sitting down and getting input, being open as to how things are done, how they can be done better. …

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