Labor Relations Today

Labor Relations Today

TN Gov To Ignore Board Subpoena

Posted in Quick Hits, Representation Elections, Senate

Mike Pare of the Times Free Press reports that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is not planning on attending the National Labor Relations Board’s hearing in Chattanooga, TN next week, despite being subpoenaed by the United Auto Workers.  More than twenty Tennessee officials have been subpoenaed by the UAW in connection with its attempt to overturn February’s election loss at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant.  It is currently unclear whether Governor Haslam’s non-attendance will affect the Board proceedings.

More on the latest developments in the UAW/VW story can be found in the links below:

What Northwestern Is Telling Other Universities

Posted in NLRA, Quick Hits, Representation Elections

Melanie Trottman of the Wall Street Journal has a post on the WSJ’s Washington Wire blog highlighting five things Northwestern is telling other football schools about unions:

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro has been fielding questions from colleagues from around the country in recent weeks. They want to know more about the National Labor Relations Board’s decision that Northwestern’s scholarship football players are school employees who can unionize. Mr. Schapiro answered them at once in a “Dear Colleague” letter last week that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal. Northwestern sent the April 7 letter to all the presidents of NCAA Division I football schools, according to a Northwestern University spokesman who confirmed its authenticity. Mr. Schapiro conveyed a mix of reassurance and caution about the effort Northwestern is fighting through an appeal to the NLRB.

As the details of Ms. Trottman’s post make clear, Northwestern will not go down without a fight.

Additional analysis of college football players’ unionizing efforts at Northwestern:

Posted in Media Round-Up, Negotiations, NLRA, NLRB, Representation Elections, Unions

CT Rep Proposes College Athlete Union Law: Cassandra Day of the Middletown Press reports that last week, Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser (D-Middletown) stated that he is working with state lawmakers to draft legislation allowing athletes at the University of Connecticut to form a labor union.  Mr. Lesser’s comments come on the heels of UConn basketball standout Shabazz Napier stating that he went to bed hungry despite playing for the NCAA Basketball champions. 

“The legislature needs to look closely at our student-athletes. Athletes in top tier NCAA sports bring in millions a year in revenue — they don’t see a dime of it and most of them will never make it to the NFL or NBA. Even worse, some of them will get career-ending injuries. Not only are they not getting paid, they have to worry about going to bed hungry.”

As the reader is aware, all of this activity piggybacks on the Northwestern football teams’ union campaign.  A vote in that matter is set for April 25.

WY Teachers Issue Strike Notice: Mike Vojtko of WNEP.com reports that school teachers in Luzerne County, WY have issued a strike notice and could walk off the job as early as tomorrow.  The teachers first struck back in September of 2013.  If the school board rejects the teachers’ union’s latest contract proposal, the school district will likely have to scramble for subsitutes.  We will keep you posted on this dispute.

Cyber Charter Teachers Unionize In PA: Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that this past week, teachers working at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School voted 71-34 to be represented by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).  The approximately 115 teachers will be the first charter members represented by the union.  Bargaining over a contractual agreement will begin as soon as the National Labor Relations Board certifies the election.

@LRToday Morning Round-Up: April 11, 2014

Posted in Uncategorized

Delta Western Workers Unionize: Lauren Rosenthall at KUCB.org reports that fuel technicians employed by Delta Western in Unalaska, AK have voted to unionize.  In a razor-thin victory, the workers voted 8 in favor and 7 against to join the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.  Both sides have a full week to challenge the results of the election, which may occur because management officials challenged certain ballots during voting.

UAW Hearing Subpoenas Expected To Be Challenged: Mike Pare of the Times Free Press writes that subpoenas issued by the UAW in its election appeal will in all likelihood be challenged.  Yesterday, @LRToday noted that the UAW has served subpoenas on almost 20 Tennessee politicians and state officials in fighting the results of February’s UAW election vote at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant.  While the UAW has expressed optimism that Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker will comply with the subpoena, odds are good that the two will not come quietly.  We will keep you posted as this situation develops.

Teamsters Reject Part Of UPS Deal: Laura Stevens of the Wall Street Journal reports that earlier this week, the Teamsters Union in Louisville, KY rejected part of a new labor deal with UPS.  The portion of the contract that was rejected deals with health benefits, wages for part time workers, and overtime restrictions.  The prime contract was ratified months ago, but cannot be implemented until riders and other side agreements are concluded between the company and local unions across the country.

 

Navigating the Overlap Between President Obama’s “Equal Pay” Orders for Federal Contractors and the NLRA

Posted in Executive Orders, Government Contracting, Legislation, NLRA, Senate, White House

On April 8, 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to propose new regulations and rules to prohibit Federal contractors from discriminating against employees for inquiring, discussing or disclosing their compensation, or the compensation of other employees.  The new order, entitled “Non-Retaliation For Disclosure of Compensation Information,” amends Executive Order 11246 of September 24, 1965, which prohibits federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business annually from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Specifically, the new Executive Order amends Section 202 of Executive Order 11246 to include a new paragraph as follows:

The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because such employee or applicant has inquired about, discussed, or disclosed the compensation of the employee or applicant or another employee or applicant. This provision shall not apply to instances in which an employee who has access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of such employee’s essential job functions discloses the compensation of such other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to such information, unless such disclosure is in response to a formal complaint or charge, in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or is consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information. (Emphasis added).

The President has directed the Secretary of Labor to propose regulations implementing this new rule on or before September 15, 2014.  These requirements would apply to all contracts entered into after the effective date of those regulations.

Likewise, the Senate yesterday attempted to advance the “Paycheck Fairness Act” (S. 84), which would apply more broadly to all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act.  That bill, which failed to advance past a cloture vote, would amend the FLSA to make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against or discipline an employee because the employee:

has inquired about, discussed, or disclosed the wages of the employee or another employee.

Curiously, both these provisions address conduct which is already largely covered by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  Longstanding National Labor Relations Board case law already prohibits an employer from forbidding employees from, or disciplining employees for, discussing their wages with each other. See, e.g., Double Eagle Hotel & Casino, 341 NLRB 112 (2004); Mobil Exploration, 323 NLRB 1064 (1997).

With respect to the Executive Order, many government contractors whose employees are not organized may not be fully aware of this — or other aspects of the NLRA (which nevertheless does apply in non-union workplaces). Also, despite some language suggesting exemption for some management personnel, the order may also apply more broadly to contractors’ supervisors who are not covered by the NLRA.  In sum, this may well be the next step in the Administration’s ongoing effort to expand the use of labor law compliance information for the disqualification or debarment of Federal contractors.

Of course, the Senate bill — unlikely to go anywhere prior to 2014 midterm elections — would facilitate class action suits and provide compensatory and punitive damages, which are remedies which the NLRA does not provide.

Still, as this conduct is unlawful under current and longstanding NLRA precedent, employers would be prudent to review workrules, handbooks and policy and practice manuals with counsel to ensure compliance.

@LRToday Morning Round-Up: April 10, 2014

Posted in Media Round-Up, NLRA, NLRB, Representation Elections, Senate, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Northwestern Files Appeal Of Election Decision: Kat Greene of Law360 ($$) reports that yesterday, in a move that surprised no one, Northwestern University appealed last month’s decision from the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director allowing the University’s football players to hold a union election.  The appeal argues that the full Board should review the regional director’s decision because it ignored major pieces of evidence.

“Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” the university argued in its brief. “Based on the testimony of a single player, the regional director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually presented at the hearing.”

As of now, the school’s football players are set to hold their election on April 25.  We will keep you posted on any decision the Board renders on the school’s appeal.

Board Files Complaint Against OUR Walmart: Eric Boehm of Fox News reports that the National Labor Relations Board has filed unfair labor practice charges against OUR Walmart over a Black Friday protest that took place in 2012.  The protest, meant to draw attention to what OUR Walmart believes are low wages and substandard benefits at the big box giant, took place at a store in Dearborn, MI. 

The Board’s complaint alleges that OUR Walmart entered the store and occupied its electronics section for approximately 20 minutes.  In another incident, several individuals entered a restroom and “coercively interrogated an employee regarding her wages, hours, and working conditions.”

UAW Subpoenas TN Politicos: WATE.com reports that the  United Auto Workers (UAW) has issued subpoenas to Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Governor Bill Haslam, and a slew of other Tennessee officials to compel them to appear at a National Labor Relations Board hearing regarding February’s union election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant.  The reader may recall that the UAW lost the election by about 80 votes and is now appealing the results, alleging that outside interference tainted the results of the election.

Please follow our blog, Labor Relations Today, our Twitter feed (@LRToday), and our Flipboard magazine for additional developments and analysis.

NLRB’s Public Hearing on New Election Rules Starts Tomorrow

Posted in Expedited Elections, NLRB, NLRB Administration, NLRB Rule-Making, Representation Elections

The National Labor Relations Board’s public hearing regarding its new election rules designed to shorten the time-frame for the conduct of union representation elections commences tomorrow and will end on Friday. As previously noted, the proposed rule is identical to changes first proposed in June of 2011 that were ultimately invalidated by the District Court decision in Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. v. NLRB,  Civil Action No. 11-2262.

The Board has announced the line-up of speakers, which includes former Board members and general counsel, prominent labor attorneys, union officials and employer representatives. The two-day hearing will be webcast in its entirety at the Board’s website, and the speakers will address the following topics:

Thursday:

  • Electronic Signatures: Whether electronic signatures should be permitted to satisfy the showing of interest.
  • Scheduling of Pre-election Hearing: Whether the hearing shall begin in seven days, absent special circumstances.
  • Requirement of written statement of position: Whether the parties must submit a written statement of position.
  • Issues for litigation at the pre-election hearing: Whether and how the rules should define the types of issues that should be litigated at the pre-election hearing.
  • Concluding statements, arguments and post-hearing briefs; Direction of Election with decision to follow: Whether or how the rules should specify the standard, form, and timing for presenting concluding statements and arguments, and post-hearing briefs, regarding the pre-election hearing; and whether the rules should permit the Direction of Election to be issued before a pre-election Decision is issued, with a Decision to follow.
  • Board Review: Whether or how to amend the process for Board review of the Decision and Direction of Election; and whether or how post-election Board review procedures should be amended
  • Blocking Charges: Whether or how the rules should address “blocking charge” policy and the procedures used for placing a representation case in abeyance pending the outcome of unfair labor practice charges.

Friday:

  • Election date: Whether the standard for scheduling an election remain “as soon as practicable” or should it include a minimum or maximum time between the filing of the petition and the election. Also, do the proposed rules protect free speech interests.
  • Voter Lists: Whether or how the rules should address voter lists.
  • Specific Questions: Miscellaneous issues such as unrepresented unions and small businesses and petition bars.

@LRToday Morning Round-Up: April 9, 2014

Posted in Media Round-Up, NLRA, NLRB, Representation Elections, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Valero Nixes Social Media Rules To Placate Board: Alex Lawson of Law360 ($$) writes that yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board issued an announcement stating that Valero Energy Corp. had rescinded a company policy that allegedly impeded its employees’ ability to discuss their employment online.  While exact terms of the settlement were not available, the Board did state that Valeor will be immediately nixing the allegedly offending policy and would also be alerting its employees of the change.

“Under the terms of the settlement, Valero Services agreed to notify employees that it will rescind its unlawful social media policy and to post NLRB notices at its 52 facilities nationwide, as well as to mail notices to employees, advising them that they will not be prohibited from using social media to discuss their terms and conditions of employment,” the board said in a statement.

The dispute dates back to 2012, when the United Steelworkers brought unfair labor practice charges, claiming that Valero’s social media rules violated the National Labor Relations Act.  Employers should take heed here, particularly because the Board has shown a propensity to target social media policies as overly restrictive, even in non-union settings.

NW Appeal Deadline Closing Fast: Tom Raum of the Associated Press writes that Northwestern University must file its appeal today of last month’s National Labor Relations Board regional director’s decision holding that NW’s football players are employees eligible to unionize.  The school has repeatedly vowed to appeal the ruling, so we can only assume that its attorneys are currently crossing t’s and dotting i’s on the university’s appeal.  Also of note, an election is scheduled for April 25 to determine whether the players want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association.  We will keep you posted on further developments.

More From Mercedes NLRB Hearing: Dawn Kent Azok of AL.com reports that new details of union coercion have begun to emerge in the current National Labor Relations Board hearing involving Mercedes-Benz in Birmingham, Alabama.  Apparently, United Auto Workers organizers have visited employees at their homes repeatedly over the past two years in attempting to drum up union support at the plant.   Some employees, according to Mercedes’ lawyer, are simply fed up with the campaigning and want the UAW to go away.   The hearing is expected to wrap this week. 

Please follow our blog, Labor Relations Today, our Twitter feed (@LRToday), and our Flipboard magazine for additional developments and analysis.

@LRToday Morning Round-Up: April 8, 2014

Posted in House of Representatives, Media Round-Up, NLRA, NLRB, NLRB Rule-Making, Representation Elections, Unfair Labor Practices, Unions

Board Declines GOP Request To Extend Election Comment PeriodBen James of Law360 ($$) writes that the National Labor Relations Board has declined a request from John Kline (R-MN), the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, to extend the open comment period for the Board’s "quickie election" rule.  Board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, in a short letter, provided that the current sixty-day window allows for more than enough time for comments.

“A majority of the board believes that all persons interested in the proposed amendments, including those in the best position to provide informed comment on the details of the board’s representation case procedures — the attorneys and other practitioners who regularly participate in representation proceedings — will have ample time and opportunities to do so within the 60-day comment period,” the letter said.
 

A public hearing on the rule is set to take place at the end of this week in Washington, D.C.  We will keep you posted on the content of the hearing.

Board Conducting Mercedes-Benz ULP HearingPat Duggins of Alabama Public Radio reports that the National Labor Relations Board has begun a hearing into Mercedes-Benz after allegations surfaced that the car maker had committed certain unfair labor practices.  In pertinent part, Mercedes has been accused of unlawfully intimidating and surveilling pro-union employees who attempt to handbill on the plant’s campus in Birmingham, AL.  The hearing is expected to continue for most of this week.  

VW Considering UAW RecognitionMike Pare of the Times Free Press writes that Volkswagen may be considering recognizing the United Auto Workers union at its Chattanooga, TN plant.  Yesterday, the Center for Worker Freedom alleged that VW was considering doing an end-around February’s union election, which the UAW lost, and granting the union a seat at the table.  All of this comes in the midst of the UAW appealing its election loss to the National Labor Relations Board.  We have been watching this saga very closely and will make sure to keep you posted.

Please follow our blog, Labor Relations Today, our Twitter feed (@LRToday), and our Flipboard magazine for additional developments and analysis.