Labor Relations Today

Labor Relations Today

RD Seeks Contempt Finding Against ILWU

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

Last week, National Labor Relations Board regional director Ronald Hooks filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to find the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in contempt for continuing an unlawful work slowdown at the Port of Portland.  The motion contends that the union has repeatedly ignored a 2012 court order directing the ILWU to end the work slowdowns at Terminal 6.  The motion also argues that the judge should fine the ILWU $25,000, as well as continuing fines until the slowdown stops.

The ILWU has been at odds with ICTSI Oregon, the terminal operator for the Port of Portland, since 2010.  The major dispute involves whether members of the electrical workers union or the longshoremen will be assigned the task of plugging and unpluggin power cords on “reefers.”  The ILWU was given the work last December, but productivity levels have declined markedly.  ILWU workers have reportedly showed up late for work, operated cranes slowly, and walked off the job.

A hearing with the judge will take place soon.  We will be watching this story closely, so stay tuned.

Ironworkers Plead Guilty To Arson, Other Charges

Posted in Federal Court Litigation, Quick Hits, Unions

This past Tuesday, two members of the Philadelphia Ironworkers Union pled guilty to using unlawful and violent methods in attempting to force businesses to hire union labor.  James Walsh copped to five arson-related charges, including two counts of maliciously damaging property by means of fire.  Walsh also pled guilty to RICO conspiracy charges.  Greg Sullivan pled guilty to extortion under the Hobbs Act, as well as conspiracy to damage property by fire.

Walsh and Sullivan were indicted back in February alongside eight of their cronies.  The ten union members were alleged to have created “goon squads” to assault employees, start fires, and damage property so that contractors would use union labor.

For his actions, Walsh is looking at up to 110 years in prison and over $1million in fines.  Sullivan could be in prison for as long as 40 years and may owe up to $500,000 in fines.  Both men will be sentenced in early 2015.

Two other defendants have already pled guilty to similar charges.

St. Rose Adjuncts Unionize

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

Yesterday, adjunct faculty members employed by the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York elected to unionize under the banner of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  According to a press release, almost three quarters of the more than 200 faculty members voted “Yes,” with the remainder either voting “No” or abstaining entirely. 

For its part, the school is taking the vote in stride.  Shortly after the results were announced, University President Carolyn Stefanco released an open letter to the faculty and the SEIU:

“With the other College leaders, I will work collaboratively with the SEIU to address the issues that have been raised by the adjunct faculty, all while keeping in mind our mutual obligation to serve the best interests of the students and the College as a whole.”  

Major bargaining table priorities for the newly-formed union include pay raises, better benefits, and greater job security.  We will keep you posted as the union and university officials begin hammering out a collective bargaining agreement.

SEIU Looking To Unionize U Of MN Faculty

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

While much of the labor world has been keeping its eyes on the Fight for Fifteen campaign, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Adjunct Action have been working hard to unionize faculty members and employees at U.S. colleges and universities.  Just last week, the SEIU authored a blast email to non-tenured faculty members at the University of Minnesota.  The email urged the faculty members to consider joining the SEIU’s Local 284 so that SEIU officials can represent those faculty in collective bargaining proceedings.

The email opined that tenure-track faculty positions are rapidly declining.  The loss of highly sought-after tenure-track positions has coincided with a loss of faculty rights, per the SEIU’s email.  The only solution?  Unionizing.

“At many schools, we’re facing less faculty inclusion in governance structures, erosion of academic freedom and fewer protections on our intellectual property,” the email read.

The SEIU and Adjunct Action have experienced mixed results in Minnesota.  About six months ago, both groups pushed hard to unionize faculty members across the Twin Cities.  The union’s only successful campaign finished in June, when adjunct professors at Hamline University voted to unionize.

CNN Appeals Board Reinstatement Order

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

Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that CNN must reinstate over 100 unionized workers who were laid off in a restructuring more than 10 years ago.  And CNN is also required to pay those workers for lost pay and benefits stemming from their unlawful termination.

The dispute in question arose in 2003, when CNN replaced a unionized subcontractor with in-house non-union employees.  The unionized employees, who worked for Team Video Services, filed unfair labor practice charges.  The Board found for the employees (a decade later), ruling that CNN had an obligation to bargain with the union regarding its decision to terminate the subcontract.  CNN also acted to avoid possible successorship bargaining obligations.

In a statement, the president of the union trumpeted the Board’s ruling.

“These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities. CNN should finally do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders of the National Labor Relations Board issued today,” [Jim] Joyce said.  

CNN recently announced that it would be laying off workers across the country in order to streamline its operations, and this Board ruling really throws a wrench into its plans.  So, CNN is now seeking review of the Board’s Order with the D.C. Circuit.  The petition for review does not lay out CNN’s grounds for appeal of the Board’s ruling.  A spokeswoman would only say that CNN “disagrees with the NLRB decision.” 

It is unclear how the Board’s ruling will affect CNN’s plans to reorganize going forward.  But the appeal at least gives CNN some breathing room.  The Board’s Order provided that CNN would have to send offers of reinstatement within 14 days of being issued, so for now CNN will avoid the proverbial fire drill.  With the original trial in front of the ALJ lasting 72 days, the appeals process could be lengthy.  We will make sure to keep you posted with any updates.

Senate HELP Committee Approves Block’s Board Nomination

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, Presidential Appointments, Quick Hits, Senate

Yesterday, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) approved the nomination of Sharon Block to the National Labor Relations Board.  Ms. Block is a former Board member whose recess appointment caused a great deal of controversy and was eventually found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  The HELP Committee split primarily on party lines, with 13 members approving her nomination and 9 members voting against it. 

While Republicans complained that Ms. Block had showed a “lack of respect” for the Constitution by continuing to serve in her post until the Supreme Court weighed in, Democrats took a more favorable view of her nomination.

“I continue to believe that Ms. Block is an exceptionally talented and dedicated public servant and that we’d be hard- pressed to find a more qualified nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board,” HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said at the beginning of Wednesday’s executive session.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who just yesterday introduced a bill designed to reign in the Board’s powers, offered a less flattering portrayal of Ms. Block:

“Ms. Block showed a troubling lack of respect for the Constitution, the separation of powers and the Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent by continuing to serve on the board and participate in hundreds of decisions after the D.C. Circuit and then the Fourth Circuit found her appointment unconstitutional,” Alexander said. “In those decisions where she did participate, she aligned herself with a disturbing trend of the board becoming more of an advocate than an umpire.”

Despite clear Republican opposition, labor watchers expect the full Senate to confirm Ms. Block’s nomination.  With last year’s exercise of the “nuclear option” allowing the Senate to make up or down votes on presidential appointments, it is highly unlikely that any Senators could invoke procedural measures to slow the vote down.  Stay tuned to @LRToday, where we will be following this issue to its conclusion.

GOP Seeks To Reform NLRB

Posted in NLRB, Quick Hits, Senate, White House

Yesterday, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill to curb what the Senator believes to be the Board’s “partisan” activities.  Co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the bill would add a sixth member to the Board so that the President’s party would never have a Board majority.  Currently styled NLRB Reform Act, the bill would also make sure that the Board delivers its decisions in a more timely fashion.

“The board is too partisan, swinging from one side to the other with each new administration — taking employers and employees on a wild ride,” Alexander said in a statement accompanying his speech on the Senate floor. “It’s time for the board to restore stability to workplaces in Tennessee and throughout the country — with nonpartisan decisions made more quickly, assisted by a neutral general counsel.”

The bill would also require that four members agree before a decision was issued.  More importantly for businesses, employers have the ability to challenge complaints issued by the Board’s General Counsel in federal court and would be able to seek discovery concerning the complaint. 

Labor watchers are likely aware that the bill has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.  However, we will be watching this debate closely, so stay tuned.

More on this story can be found here:

New Vista Asks Third Circuit To Hold Hearing In Abeyance

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

Yesterday, New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation LLC asked the Third Circuit to hold the re-hearing of a prior 2-1 Third Circuit decision in abeyance until the National Labor Relations Board has an opportunity to pass on the questions involved.  The case at issue began in March of 2012 when recess-appointed Board members Craig Becker, Sharon Block, and Richard Griffin denied New Vista’s request for reconsideration of the Board’s 2011 determination that New Vista had committed certain unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with a labor union.  New Vista contends that since an invalidly-constituted Boarddenied its request for reconsideration, the request should pass before a now-properly constituted Board.

“The relief requested in this motion is appropriate because it puts this case into the status requested by the NLRB itself and previously ordered by this court in conformity with the Noel Canning decision and is consistent with the relief granted by this and other courts of appeal in related cases,” New Vista said.

Only last month, the Third Circuit granted the Board’s request for a rehearing of the court’s 2-1 decision, contending that the court got its decision wrong and that member Becker, despite being a recess-appointee, was still actually properly appointed pursuant to the Supreme Court’s Noel Canning decision.  We here at @LRToday will be watching this case closely, so stay tuned as it moves forward.

Decertification Fight At Cablevision Turns Nasty

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

Last week, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) accused Cablevision management officials of attempting to intimidate its employees into voting to decertify the CWA as the employee’s exclusive bargaining agent.  In a statement, CWA alleged that Cablevision has engaged in a pattern of mass-firings and bad-faith bargaining, among other things, in order to break employee support for the union.

For its part, Cablevision not only denied the charges, but has accused the CWA of filing meritless unfair labor practice charges and delaying contract negotiations in order to delay a decertification vote that employees have petitioned for since January of 2013.

More on this story can be found here:

Union Cancels Election, Blames Hospital

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

Earlier this week, the New York State Nurses Association (the Union) withdrew an election petition at St. Mary’s Hospital in New York.  The petitioned-for unit covered about 250 registered nurses.  The vote was originally scheduled for September 25, but the union ended its campaign despite purportedly having majority support among nurses because “tactics employed by managers made it impossible to hold a fair election.”

According to union officials, St. Mary’s management held informational meetings and conducted one-on-one interviews in order to persuade nurses to vote ‘no.’  In a statement, the Hospital’s CEO denied those charges.

“St. Mary’s has provided accurate, factual and verifiable information to enable our RNs to make an informed decision as to whether it is in their best interests to have NYSNA serve as their sole and exclusive representative,” [hospital CEO Vic] Giulianelli said in a statement.

While the union has backed down from St. Mary’s for the time being, it is likely they will come back around in the future.  We will keep you posted.