Should a company be liable for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement alongside one of its contractors or franchisees even if it doesn’t set any workplace rules? U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods of the Southern District of New York thinks it should. On September 8, Judge Woods struck down a key portion of a rule change finalized in January by the Department of Labor that narrowed the circumstances for assigning an employer ‘joint’ or ‘dual’ status and thus forcing it to collectively bargain. The DOL rule, he concluded, contravened the Fair Labor Standards Act, and was “arbitrary and capricious.” Attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia had filed suit in late February to enjoin enforcement. As a result of the decision, unions have a far wider basis for suing an employer for unfair labor practices.
Unions long have bitterly opposed the Right to Work principle. But some, in their desire to generate dues, may deceive workers into joining. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 120 did – and so far hasn’t succeeded. On March 25, two Minnesota building materials employees announced a back pay settlement of more than $30,000 with a former employer for illegally firing them at the strong behest of Local 120. The workers, James Connolly and Charles Winter, had charged last spring that the company and the union falsely told them, several times, that union membership was a condition of employment. The case underscores organized labor’s reluctance to accept the Supreme Court’s Beck decision of over 30 years ago. A complaint filed by Connolly and Winter with the National Labor Relations Board remains active.
The saga began on April 9, 2019, when James Connolly, a recent hire at OMG Midwest’s Belle Plaine, Minnesota … Read More ➡
An employer’s email system is as much private property as its computer equipment or real estate. The National Labor Relations Board once again, if belatedly, has affirmed this fact. On December 16, the board in Caesars Entertainment voted 3-1 to reestablish the right of an employer to restrict employee use of company email and other information technology during nonworking hours. The ruling overturns the board’s Obama-era ruling in Purple Communications, which had concluded employees have a statutory right to use employer email for union purposes. Employer groups see the decision as vindication of property rights, free speech rights, and especially cyber security. Union officials and supporters, understandably, are taking a different view.
With email having become established at the workplace, it was inevitable that disputes would arise over its availability to promote unions. Employers generally hold that their email systems ought to be used for workplace issues that advance … Read More ➡
If there is a worse piece of legislation in the history of American labor relations than the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, one would be hard-pressed to find it. This gift to organized labor, introduced in May by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would dismantle virtually every existing safeguard against union monopoly in the private-sector workplace. Among its features, the measure would override state Right to Work laws protecting employees from being fired for withholding union dues; create an expansive “joint employer” standard to force employers to bargain alongside their contractors; and ban employment arbitration agreements. The House Education and Labor Committee approved the measure on September 25 in a party-line 26-21 vote, setting up a brutal battle in 2020 in the full House and likely the Senate.
Labor unions in this country regularly proclaim their solidarity with “working families,” also known as “working … Read More ➡
Pressuring employees into giving a union permission to deduct dues from paychecks is a common practice. This “dues checkoff,” however, soon may become uncommon. On July 12, the National Labor Relations Board’s Office of the General Counsel, in separate cases, announced that it had ruled on behalf of two workers who refused to sign dues authorization forms as a condition of employment. The employees, Kacy Warner, a Kansas City-area nurse, and Shelby Krocker, a West Virginia supermarket employee, each experienced union retaliation. Their cases previously had been dismissed by an NLRB regional office. The West Virginia case is especially disturbing because the legislature in that state a few years ago enacted a Right to Work law barring unions from exacting such payments.
Kacy Warner is a nurse at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri who was dissatisfied with the representation that she and fellow employees had been getting from … Read More ➡
Give the United Auto Workers credit: It doesn’t give up easily. But the union’s years-long effort to organize the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga once again has met with defeat. Last Friday, June 14, VW management announced that its full-time permanent workers there had voted to reject union representation. The 833-776 margin was even closer than the 712-626 “no” vote in February 2014. UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg claims the outcome was due to outside manipulation. This assertion resembles the rhetoric during the previous aftermath when the UAW called upon the National Labor Relations Board to nullify the result, a complaint it eventually dropped. VW headquarters in Germany, while not formally capitulating to the union as before, remains a passive partner.
The Obama-era National Labor Relations Board, with its built-in pro-union majority, gave organized labor plenty of organizing and bargaining advantages, but none perhaps as far-reaching as the “quickie” or “ambush” election rule. Now an appeals court has upheld it. On April 19, a three-judge panel for the District of Columbia federal circuit court, in UPS Ground Freight Inc. v. NLRB, rejected an employer challenge to the rule, which, when put in place in April 2015, dramatically shortened the time available for employers to convey to employees their objections to potential union representation. Plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the board’s directive to UPS to bargain with a Teamsters local lay outside the scope of its authority and that the rule “values speed at all costs.” And they were right.
Unions, like all organizations, seek to maximize membership. And that requires on some level persuading workers at nonunion sites to see the … Read More ➡
Should a corporation be forced to negotiate alongside contractors or franchisees even if it doesn’t set their workplace standards? Once again, the National Labor Relations Board is attempting to clarify this contentious issue. On September 14, the NLRB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would assign a company ‘joint’ or ‘dual’ employer status along with its affiliate “only if the two employers share or codetermine the employee’s essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.” In effect, the board wants to restore a longstanding, and more realistic, definition that predated its Obama-era ruling in Browning-Ferris. Unions, by contrast, want to retain the widened definition to expand the possibilities for corporate liability for unfair labor practices.
A union can be counted on to react poorly in the face of news that its members are leaving. It may even break the law to prevent attrition. On June 20, the National Labor Relations Board, upholding an administrative court ruling, ordered International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 385 to reimburse former members for dues deducted from their paychecks after those members had submitted resignation requests. Moreover, concluded the NLRB, the union must post a message on its premises informing workers of their right to withdraw their consent to be represented. The decision was handed down amid allegations by members of the Orlando, Fla. local that their leaders have stolen funds and covered up the thefts. The international union is investigating these charges.
Teamsters Local 385 represents bus drivers and costumed characters at Walt Disney World. Yes, even Goofy, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, and the transporters of tourists to … Read More ➡
Some would call it punting. Others would call it common sense. Both summations might apply. On Monday, August 17, the National Labor Relations Board unanimously ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University cannot form a union. In overturning a March 2014 regional NLRB decision, the board concluded that allowing union organizing at one campus, but not at others, would be disruptive. The ruling read: “Our decision is primarily premised on a finding that because of the nature of sports leagues…it would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction in this case.” While the decision is a rebuke to the players’ request, its scope is narrow. By declining to rule on whether student-athletes qualify as “employees,” the board has kept the door open for similar cases.