Labor Relations Today

Labor Relations Today

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.

UNITE HERE Rallies At Alaska Hotel

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

Yesterday, members of UNITE HERE Local 878 staged a rally in front of the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska demanding that management officials renegotiate their current labor agreement.  Approximately 150 protesters chanted while walking around the hotel during business hours.

Trouble began in 2008, when management and union officials began, but did not finish, contract negotiations.  After the negotiations broke down, union members allege that management officials engaged in a widespread anti-union campaign that cut working hours and threatened employee benefits. 

This dispute is seemingly far from over.  Last year alone, UNITE HERE filed over 40 unfair labor practice charges against the hotel with the National Labor Relations Board.  Now, union members are asking the public to boycott the hotel until a new contract is finalized.

Highland Teachers On Strike

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

Last night, teachers in Madison County, Illinois voted to walk off the job and go on strike.  The strike will begin on Thursday and will be a major disruption for students and parents.  Not only are classes cancelled indefinitely, but all school-related activities are off the books as well.   

The school district is currently offering teachers a one-year contract at their current salary.  However, benefits will be trimmed as a result of rising health care costs.  The teachers have been offered a $500 stipend to offset those cuts.    

For their part, the teachers have stated they are very upset at the turn of events, but are moving forward anyway.

“We had many people in tears, but they’re willing to do what they have to do and do what’s best for the community and best for our students and for the future of our school system,” said Highland Teachers Union Representative Shianne Shively.

No further negotiation sessions are scheduled as of now, but both parties are reportedly willing to mediate the dispute.

More on this story can be found here:

Block Confirmation Hearing Set For Today

Posted in NLRA, NLRB, Presidential Appointments, Quick Hits

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hold a hearing this morning to determine whether Sharon Block’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board should be sent to the full Senate.  The reader will recall that Ms. Block was one of President Obama’s controversial “recess appointees” that were declared Constitutionally unsound by the U.S. Supreme Court in its recent Noel Canning decision. 

Assuming that her nomination is approved by the HELP Committee, Ms. Block’s Board appointment will go before the full Senate for a vote.  While labor watchers expect the Senate to confirm her appointment, politicos speculate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) may delay the vote until after the November midterms.

Daimler Staying Neutral During UAW Drive

Posted in Quick Hits, Unions

Last week, Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche stated during a press conference that the German car manufacturer will be staying neutral with regards to the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) campaign to organize its Alabama plant.  While Zetsche clearly stated that the company will remain on the sidelines, he did note that the Alabama plant employees have chosen to remain union-free over the last twenty years.

The reader may recall that the UAW has been campaigning hard to unionize auto plants in the South.  Just last February, the union suffered a humiliating defeat in Chattanooga, TN when Volkswagen employees voted not to organize. 

As was the case in Chattanooga, Alabama politicos have weighed in on the UAW’s campaign.  Alabama Governor Robert Bentley stated last Friday that a UAW local in Alabama would make it harder for him to bring foreign businesses into his state. 

“They are not as amenable coming to a state where unionization is strong,” said Bentley, who has raised union issues with Daimler and other major companies in the state. “I am not anti-union, I really am not. However I have to look at it from a recruiting standpoint.”
Based on its public comments, the UAW will not be backing down.  Stay tuned to @LRToday for further developments. 

MI Teachers Union Can’t Enforce Member ‘Opt-Out Window’

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

A decision issued by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) nixed the Michigan Education Association’s (the Union) rule that members can only opt out of the Union during the month of August.  Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern reasoned that the Union violated Michigan state law by preventing teachers and staff who wanted to leave the Union’s ranks from doing so until the ’opt-out window’ opened on August 1. 

Several teachers alleged that they tried to leave the Union in September and October of last year.  When they asked to opt out, the Union refused to let them leave, telling the teachers that they could only resign from the union during the “opt-out’ period in August.  The complaint even alleges that Union officials threatened to hire debt collectors to recover unpaid Union dues from the dissenting teachers.

Union officials lambasted the ruling and vowed to appeal.  We will keep you posted as this case moves forward.

More on this story can be found here:

Board Orders Hospital To Pay Union’s Bargaining Costs

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

Employers take heed: the Board has signaled that refusing to bargain comes with costs. In Hospital of Barstow, Inc., 361 NLRB No. 34 (Aug. 29, 2014), the National Labor Relations Board found that Barstow Community Hospital violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to submit proposals or counterproposals during collective bargaining until it received the Union’s entire contract proposal. The Hospital further violated the Act by declaring impasse and refusing to bargain unless the Union directed unit members to stop documenting purportedly unsafe work situations.

In 2012, the California Nurses Association (the Union) began an organizing drive and won an election to represent the Hospital’s registered nurses.  The Union was certified as the nurses’ bargaining representative on June 29. On August 2, the Hospital unilaterally discontinued its offsite life support training program for nurses.  In place of the offsite program, the Hospital instituted a new training module called HeartCode.  HeartCode is an online self-directed certification program.  Problematically for the Hospital, officials capped the number of paid hours for completing the HeartCode training.  Several nurses failed to complete the HeartCode training module under the time cap and were not paid for the additional hours they spent completing the required training.

The Board found that the unilateral change in employee training violated the Act.  Because the training related to the nurses’ terms and conditions of employment, the change in training to HeartCode was a mandatory subject of bargaining.  Since the change to a capped training affected some nurses’ wages, the change was deemed “material, substantial, and significant” and accordingly violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (a)(5) of the Act.

The decision also took the Hospital to task for refusing to provide any proposals or counterproposals in any of the first five bargaining sessions between the parties because it had not received a full set of proposals from the Union.  While the Hospital did set out some proposals after the Union offered a full contract proposal, the Hospital threatened to stop the bargaining process if the Union did not direct the nurses to cease documenting potentially unsafe working conditions.  The Hospital then declared impasse despite the Union’s open invitation to discuss any matter.

The Hospital’s declaration of impasse and its bargaining in bad faith “directly caused the Union to waste its resources in futile bargaining.”  Moreover, the Hospital’s failure to bargain in good faith took place immediately after the Union was certified as the nurses’ collective-bargaining representative, which the Board considers “a critical period” of time.  The Board thus ordered the Hospital not only to return to the status quo ante, but to reimburse the Union for the expenses it incurred during bargaining, including salaries, travel expenses, and per diems.