Labor Relations Today

Labor Relations Today

Coalitions Opposed To Quickie-Election Regs Address Ripeness Issue

Posted in Federal Court Litigation, NLRB, NLRB Administration, Quick Hits

Last week, a business coalition seeking to nix [sub. req.] the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial new quickie-election regulations filed post-hearing letters in Texas district court, contending that their claim against the rules has undoubtedly ripened because the rule has now been implemented.  The regulations went live on April 14th: since that date, more than 140 election petitions have been filed with the NLRB:

“Therefore, whatever merit the board’s ripeness arguments once had (and plaintiffs reiterate that they had no merit even before the rule went into effect), those arguments must fail now,” the groups said in their brief.

The plaintiffs further argue that the regulations violate the Administrative procedure act because they reverse “decades of policy and precedent without adequate justification.”

In early March, the Board filed a motion to dismiss the suit, as well as a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it is owed “extraordinary deference” in the crafting of its own procedures.

Stay tuned to @LRToday for further updates and analysis concerning this lawsuit and the quickie-election regulations.

Board Nixes Honda Dress Policy

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, NLRB Decisions, Quick Hits, Remedies, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a Honda car dealership violated the National Labor Relations Act by promulgating unlawful work rules.  Specifically, the dealership maintained an overly broad dress code and unlawfully prohibited employees from wearing pins.

In a split decision, member Kent Hirozawa and Chairman Mark Pearce determined that the employer had maintained the unlawful dress code in its Employee Handbook since 2010, and that a 2013 revision to the rule did not constitute an “effective repudiation.”  The rule at issue barred “front of the house” employees from wearing clothing that showed “insignias or messages.”

The majority further held that Honda’s ban on the wearing of pins was unlawful.  The employer justified the rule by arguing that pins could be a safety hazard for both people and vehicles on the property.  But the majority disagreed:

“As written, the rule applies to employees who have contact with the public, regardless of whether they come into contact with the respondent’s vehicles,” the majority said. “Indeed, the rule applies to employees who do not typically have contact with vehicles … and to other employees during their performance of tasks that do not require vehicle contact.”

Member Johnson dissented from the portion of the ruling finding the pin prohibition unlawful:

“Automobiles are expensive, and the respondent has demonstrated that it experiences significant annual losses as a result of property damage to its vehicles,” Johnson wrote.

It is unclear whether Honda will appeal the Board’s ruling to the Courts of Appeal.  Stay tuned.

 

UAW Counts Majority Support At VW Plant

Posted in Quick Hits, Representation Elections, Unions

According to disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has gathered union authorization cards from 816 employees working at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant.  The Associated Press is reporting that this amounts to about 55% support, which is a huge milestone considering that the UAW lost an unopposed representation election at the exact same factory in February 2014.

Despite losing the election a little over a year ago, the UAW’s efforts to organize VW’s Chattanooga plant have continued apace.  Last year, the union created a Local in order to educate employees about the benefits of collective bargaining and to “forward their mission.”  And as evidenced by their current holding of majority support, their plan seems to be working.

In what could be a further boon for the UAW’s organizing efforts, VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech recently resigned his position after butting heads with the company’s CEO.  Berthold Huber, a past supporter of the UAW’s efforts to organize the Chattanooga facility, has been named interim chairman in Piech’s place.

 

Wisc. Seeks To Quash Right-To-Work Challenge

Posted in Legislation, Quick Hits, State/Local Issues, Unions

Last Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice  [sub. req.] filed a motion to quash a challenge brought by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO to the state’s controversial right-to-work law.  Known as Act 1 and signed into law on March 9 of this year, the state’s right-to-work law would bar mandatory dues contributions from union members.

In its motion, the Dep’t of Justice argues that the AFL-CIO lacks standing to sue because any injury resulting to the union from the law’s implementation is purely speculative:

“Plaintiffs claim that Act 1, in the future, will prevent them from signing collective bargaining agreements that may provide for certain services, and that if employees exercise their rights under Act 1, then plaintiffs will lose money,” the state Justice Department said, blasting the lawsuit as purely speculative. “This hypothetical concern is not the type of concrete, particularized injury required to establish standing.”

This is not the union’s first salvo against Act 1, either.  Days after the bill was signed by Gov. Scott Walker, the union filed a preliminary injunction against its enactment.  However, the request for an injunction was denied by the Dane County Circuit Court.

Stay tuned to @LRToday, where we will be following this litigation through its conclusion.

 

Con-Way Says No To Teamsters

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, Quick Hits, Representation Elections, Unions

Earlier this week, employees working at Con-Way Freight in Buffalo, New York voted not to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).  The Teamsters’ loss at Con-Way represents its sixth organizing defeat at the company.  The union has also withdrawn two other petitions prior to a vote being held.

The president of Con-Way issued a short statement lauding the election results:

“We are gratified by the vote of our Buffalo employees and the statement of confidence it represents in our company and our union-free philosophy,” Greg Lehmkuhl, Con-way Freight president, said. “We continue to believe that our path to success lies in maintaining an open, respectful and direct relationship with our employees without the interference of a third party.”

The Teamsters have also recently sought to organize employees at FedEx freight.  But those campaigns have been met with mixed success as well.  The union has won four elections, but has lost five and has also withdrawn six petitions.

Board Judge Orders NYU To Bargain With Union

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, Quick Hits, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Earlier this week, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ruled that New York University violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain with a labor union.  The matter arose in late 2013, when NYU began changing the job duties of approximately 30 library employees.  The employees had been working only one unit of the library, but the school began requiring employees to work in two units.

After the change in job duties was implemented, the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff (the union) demanded that NYU bargain over the changes.  When NYU refused to do so, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB.

The decision explained that NYU was required by law to bargain with the union over the effects of the job changes, and thus the school was ordered to do so forthwith.  Neither party has commented on the decision.  If NYU appeals, we will let you know.

Rival Unions Vie For Position At VW

Posted in Negotiations, NLRA, NLRB, Quick Hits, Representation Elections, Unions

Two separate labor unions are aggressively seeking to organize employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant. Both the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Council of Employees (ACE) have been pushing VW employees to sign union authorization cards in order to satisfy the requirements of VW’s Community Organization Engagement (COE) initiative, which grants labor group access to VW’s management officials depending on how many authorization cards a given union has procured.

The UAW reached the COE’s highest access level in December 2014 after presenting VW with cards signed by at least 45% of VW employees. Thus, UAW officials are allowed to meet bi-weekly with VW management. And reaching this highest access level seems to have galvanized the UAW’s organizing efforts. Mike Cantrell, the president of UAW local 42, said last week that the UAW has now collected authorization cards from more than 50% of VW’s Chattanooga employees and has asked the company to voluntarily recognize the union:

“We hope VW will accept the cards,” he said, and for the automaker to start bargaining with the UAW over issues such as pay and benefits.

Of course, Mr. Cantrell’s desire to bypass a union election is understandable. After all, the UAW lost an unopposed election in February 2014 by approximately 80 votes, in what was universally considered a major blow to its efforts to organize the labor-averse Southeastern United States.

While the UAW seems to have gained some major momentum in the last couple of months, the ACE organizing effort has certainly not gone away. Sean Moss, the president of ACE, announced that the ACE recently presented VW officials with plans for establishing a European-style “works council” at VW’s Chattanooga plant. Such “works councils” already exist at VW’s European plants and allow management officials and employees to discuss issues related to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Moss termed it “a concept with broad strokes. It’s a starting point. I think we’ve done our homework.”

Even though Moss claimed that the ACE had done its “homework” with respect to the establishment of a “works council” in Tennessee, such a move could prove problematic under the National Labor Relations Act. Pursuant to the Electromation doctrine, an employer will run afoul of the Act if it dominates a “labor organization.” The Board will find a given group to be a “labor organization” if “(1) employees participate, (2) the group exists, at least in part, for the purpose of ‘dealing with’ employers, and (3) these dealings concern ‘conditions of work’ or concern other statutory subjects, such as grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, or hours of employment.” See, 309 N.L.R.B. at 994. Further:

[W]hen the impetus behind the formation of an organization of employees emanates from an employer and the organization has no effective existence independent of the employer’s active involvement, a finding of domination is appropriate if the purpose of the organization is to deal with the employer concerning conditions of employment. Id. at 996.

While it is currently unclear what the ACE’s proposed works council would look like, it could violate the Act if employees and managers met to discuss “conditions of work.” Thus, it will be interesting to see whether the ACE’s plan ever gets off the ground.

In any event, the continued attempts by the UAW and the ACE to organize VW’s plant in Tennessee demonstrates that big labor’s “Southern Strategy” still continues apace, despite the UAW’s loss last February. Unions are also seeking to organize plants in South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi, among other Southern states. And we expect them to continue to do so in the near future, as union membership in the private sector hovers near all-time lows and unions seek out new forms of revenue. Stay tuned to @LRToday, where we will continue to cover these organizing drives and other major developments in the labor space.

UFCW To Seek Injunction Against Walmart

Posted in Federal Court Litigation, NLRA, NLRB, Quick Hits, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

The New York Times is reporting that the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) will seek an injunction today against Walmart, which would require the big-box giant to rehire over 2,000 workers affected by five separate store closures.  Walmart closed the five stores last week temporarily as a result of plumbing issues.

The retailer has pledged to do their best to rehire as many affected workers as possible.  However, Walmart’s promise has not placated the UFCW, which is expected to allege in its filing today that Walmart closed the five stores in retaliation “for a history of labor activism.”

“Walmart has targeted this store because the associates have been among the most active associates around the country to improve working conditions,” the claim says.

In a short statement, Walmart denied that the closings were related to organizing campaigns:

“We don’t believe there is a basis for an injunction that would interfere with our efforts to repair the serious plumbing issues at the five stores.”

The company further explained that its workers were laid off because Walmart does not know how long it will take to fix the plumbing issues.  Laying the workers off also gave them 60 days of severance pay.

More on this story can be found here:

 

NMB Urges Justice Dept To Investigate IAM Delta Organizing

Posted in Quick Hits, Representation Elections, Unions

Last week, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) withdrew a petition to organize flight attendants working for Delta Air Lines after allegations of irregularities surrounding union authorization cards began to surface.  Now, the National Mediation Board, a government agency that governs labor relations issues in the airline industry, is seeking to refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for further investigation into possible wrongdoing.

In a letter to Delta and the IAM sent last week, the NMB wrote that it:

“has reason to believe that some unknown person or persons knowingly submitted authorization cards with fraudulent signatures in possible violation of federal law.”

As of now, it is unclear whether the Department of Justice will pursue the matter.

More on this story can be found here:

 

 

Nurses Allege U of Chicago Violating NLRA

Posted in Negotiations, NLRA, Quick Hits, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Last week, National Nurses United (NNU) filed a plethora of charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the University of Chicago.  In its complaint, NNU accused the university of bargaining in bad faith, unlawfully surveilling nurses, and engaging in direct dealing with employees.

The charges stem from the parties’ fractious bargaining relationship.  The parties began negotiating over a new collective bargaining agreement last August, but thus far have failed to reach an agreement.  In fact, the nurses have been working without a contract since last October.  And in a worrying sign for the university, nurses in the bargaining unit authorized the NNU to issue a strike notice if the bargaining team believed such a measure to be necessary.

In a short statement, a university spokesperson denied NNU’s charges and further asserted that the union is not presenting a “balanced view of negotiations” to its constituents.

Currently, the biggest reported stumbling blocks on the way to a collective bargaining agreement involve disagreements between the parties over staffing levels and the university’s policy of rotating nurses between day and night shifts.

Stay tuned to @LRToday for updates on the parties’ negotiations.