Earlier this week, National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Keltner W. Locke determined that McKesson Corp. violated the National Labor Relations Act by unlawfully terminating two employees and by assisting several employees in circulating a decertification petition.  As background, the Teamsters Union came on the scene in October of 2011 when the union was certified as the employees’ bargaining representative.  Under Board law, the union could not be decertified for at least one year.

Prior to the end of that grace year, a group of employees colloquially referred to as the “magnificent seven” by their boss began scheming to decertify the union.  To that end, the magnificent seven solicited coworkers to sign a decertification petition.  Problematically for McKesson, Judge Locke found that company officials assisted the magnificent seven in circulating the petition.

 “The credited evidence establishes that these individuals did not act on their own but rather on behalf of management and with management’s assistance,” Judge Locke said. “I find that the respondent had embarked on a plot to rid itself of the union and that the seven individuals collecting signatures were part of the plot.”

The Judge’s ruling also ripped the vice president of McKesson’s Lakeland facility, Jeff Gasparini, for leading the decertification effort in conjunction with the magnificent seven.  Gasparini, the decision opined, “involved himself in [the plan’s] minute details.”

“The respondent has pursued the goal of ousting the union with the tenacity of people who consider their cause just, themselves clever, and their deeds invisible,” Judge Locke said.

Because the highest-ranking official at the company’s facility was directly involved in the unfair labor practices, Gasparini was ordered to read the notice posting allowed to unionized employees.  Judge Locke further ordered that the two unlawfully terminated employees be reinstated with back wages.

This case is a good reminder for employers not to directly involve themselves in a decertification campaign.  The National Labor Relations Act and case precedent, while confusing at times, lay out the ground rules that govern what an employer can and cannot do when employees are dissatisfied with their union.  In such a situation, employers would be wise to consult with a labor relations professional to ensure they do not run afoul of the Act.  A misstep could be costly.