Labor Relations Today

Labor Relations Today

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  The union has also withdrawn two other petitions prior to a vote being held.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  The union has won four elections, but has lost five and has also withdrawn six petitions.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.

 

Board Issues Complaint Against Pitt. Casino

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

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA.  In pertinent part, the complaint alleges that several casino managers violated the National Labor Relations Act by interrogating groups of employees regarding whether they were union supporters.  The complaint, based on charges filed against the casino by Unite Here!, further alleges that employees were also threatened with “unspecified reprisals” resulting from their union activities.

Per reports, the charges stem from an incident where a supervisor noticed employees sporting wristbands advocating for a “fair attendance policy.”  After discovering the wristbands, the supervisor allegedly ripped the union for being associated with gang members.

In a statement, a company spokesman did not comment directly on the on the allegations:

“We cannot comment on matters pending before the NLRB. Rivers Casino is proud to have been voted one of Pittsburgh’s ‘Best Places to Work’ by our team members, and we respect their rights to choose whether to be represented by a union.”

The casino is required to respond to the complaint by next week.  Currently, a hearing on the matter is set for the end of May.

Harvard Grad Students Exploring Unionizing

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, Quick Hits, Unions

Earlier today, the Harvard Crimson reported that graduate students attending Harvard University are exploring whether to form a labor union.  The Harvard union movement is clearly in its early stages, but spokespersons disclosed that students across all three divisions of Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have expressed interest in the effort.

Another union organizer expressed her hope that Harvard will “cooperate” in the students’ efforts:

“We are hopeful that the University will be fully cooperative with us, that they share the exact same interests that we are advocating for, that what is their best interest is in our interest, that we are on the same side, really,” she said.

As we have reported previously though, the Harvard organizers are up against the weight of current National Labor Relations Board jurisprudence.  Under current Board law, graduate students are not considered to be employees and are thus not subject to the Board’s jurisdiction.  But the currently-constituted Board may be more amenable to the Harvard students’ pleas.  In any event, we will be sure to keep you posted as this organizing campaign moves forward.

ALJ Orders Rerun Election At CA Hospital

Posted in Uncategorized

Earlier this week, National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge Ariel Sotolongo ordered that a union election held at Memorial Medical Center in June 2014 be set aside and that a section election be held.  The first election was held on June 26 and 27 of 2014 and resulted in the union losing by over 100 votes.  But the California Nurses Association filed objections to the election with the Board, and some of those objections were found meritorious.

The most serious objection, that hospital administrators told nurses that their pay and benefits would be cut if they supported union membership, was sustained.  However, a hospital spokesperson noted that 27 other objections filed by the union were dismissed.

In a short statement, the president of the CNA blasted the hospital’s pre-election behavior:

“Sutter’s behavior made a fair, democratic election impossible due to a disgraceful campaign of threats, chilling and incessant ‘rounding’ by managers, and pulling nurses away from their patients to pressure them to vote against having a collective voice for their patients and colleagues,” union President Malinda Markowitz said in a news release.

A new election date has not been set because the hospital can appeal the ruling to the full NLRB.  Stay tuned for updates.

Columbia Grad Student Union Hearings Underway

Posted in Uncategorized

Yesterday, parties made opening statements in a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board being held to determine whether the Graduate Workers of Columbia should be allowed to form a labor union.  The Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWOC), a group of Columbia University graduate students who have been working for some time with the United Auto Workers (UAW) in order to unionize, face an uphill battle: under current Board law, graduate students are not considered employees, but instead are considered students, and thus are ineligible to unionize.

During yesterday’s opening statement, GWOC argued that the 2004 Board ruling holding that graduate students were not employees should be overturned because it creates an “artificial dichotomy.”  Columbia University, not surprisingly, disagreed: the school takes the position that the Board should uphold its current precedent that graduate students are not eligible to form unions.

The hearing is set to continue tomorrow, when both sides are expected to call their first witnesses.  Please stay tuned to @LRToday for updates.