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The National Labor Relations Board could use a lesson in labor relations.

The board, which handles disputes between employers and unions, has a dispute with its own staff union. The union, which represents clerical employees in Washington, and clerical and professional workers in field offices, charges the NLRB and chairman John R. van de Water with unfair labor tactics that wouldn't be tolerated in the private sector. The union says it's been trying for more than a year to negotiate a Performance Appraisal System for NLRB employees, as required under the federal Civil Service Reform Act. But the union says that van de Water refused to meet directly with its representatives and that the board put into effect its own plan ''without having concluded good faith negotiations.''

Labor generally opposed van de Water's appointment to the NLRB chairman's office, charging that he was pro-employer.

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