Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (“PRO”) Act, which would make sweeping union-friendly changes to the three primary federal laws that govern private-sector labor relations: the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), the Labor Management Relations Act, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.
In yet another significant victory for employers, the United States Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment prohibits public sector unions from collecting mandatory “agency fees” from non-union members who do not consent to the payment of fees. The Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31 overturns prior precedent that allowed public sector unions to collect these mandatory fees from employees who choose not to be a part of the union.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules Mandatory Union Fees for Public Sector Employees are Unconstitutional
The NLRB recently reversed course again to allow temporary employees provided by a staffing agency to join regular employees in a single bargaining unit without the consent of the employer or the staffing agency. Miller & Anderson, Inc., 364 NLRB No. 39 (2016).
The Board Flip Flops
Historically, unions seeking to organize employees directly employed by an employer (called a “user employer” by the Board) alongside temporary employees provided by a staffing agency (“provided employees”) in a single bargaining unit were required to obtain consent of both the user employer and the staffing agency.
In 2000, however, the Clinton Board overturned that rule to eliminate the consent requirement, allowing employees to form one bargaining unit as long as they shared a community of interest and the employer and the staffing agency were considered “joint employers.” M. B. Sturgis, Inc., 331 NLRB 1298 (2000). Four years later, the Bush II Board decided Oakwood Care Center, 343 NLRB 659 (2004), and overturned the Board’s decision in Sturgis to again require consent.
Continue Reading NLRB Reverses Course Again: Organizing Temporary Workers Just Got Easier
Employers probably are aware of the “quickie” election rules implemented earlier this year by the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”), but they may not have considered all of the rules’ consequences. With as little as 15 to 20 days to respond to an organizing drive, employers must be prepared to educate employees about the risks and consequences of union representation on very short notice. While many employers have prepared as we described here, some still may not be ready to answer questions from workers and explain the consequences of unionizing the workplace. Responding to workers’ questions about a union without being properly prepared can make a mess of things, even if employers speak the truth.
A recent case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Board decision that provides a good reminder that managers must be extremely careful even when speaking the truth to workers during an organizing campaign.
Be Careful What You Say
When a car dealership in Illinois learned that some employees were stirring up interest in unionizing, the plant’s general manager met with workers to discuss unions and answer their questions. The manager answered their questions honestly, but his answers still violated labor law, according to the Board and the Sixth Circuit.Continue Reading What Employers Can and Cannot Say During a Union Organizing Campaign
As we have previously reported here and here, the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) new rules governing union representation elections go into effect today, April 14, 2015. Congress passed a resolution disapproving the new “quickie” or “ambush” rules, but President Obama vetoed it. While lawsuits have been filed in Texas and the District of Columbia challenging the new rules, at this point no court has halted their implementation. Thus, absent late-breaking developments, employers need to be prepared for this brave new world.
Under the new rules, elections will be expedited. Disputes over the unit selected by the union will be resolved in a hearing normally scheduled for no more than eight days after the filing of the petition. Moreover, the employer must identify all of its concerns with the group of employees targeted by the union in a “statement of position” filed the day before the hearing, or those arguments will be waived. Excelsior lists must be provided more quickly, and elections will be held within 10 to 25 days after the filing of the petition.
The bottom line: by design, employers will not have adequate time to prepare a campaign to educate their employees about the issues that will arise if they vote for union representation. Thus, it is imperative that all employers evaluate their risks of union organizing activity, and do what you can now to prepare ahead of time.
Continue Reading Are You Ready to be Ambushed? NLRB’s New “Quickie Election” Rules Become Effective
As anticipated, on December 12, 2014 the NLRB announced that the final “Quickie” Election Rule will be published in the Federal Register on December 15, 2014 and will take effect on April 14, 2015. Among other changes, the rule will shorten the time between the filing of a petition and the election for union representation…
On February 5, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") re-issued its controversial “quickie” election rule. As you may recall, that rule, which was opposed by employer groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, was invalidated by the D.C. District Court in May 2012. The reissued "quickie" election rule would substantially shorten the time between the filing of a petition and the election to determine whether the union will represent employees–from approximately 42 days to as little as 10 to 14 days.
The D.C. District court struck down the rule in 2012 for procedural reasons. The Board initially issued the rule in 2011, but its implementation was stayed as a result of a decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which held that the rule had been improperly adopted with only two Board member votes, rather than statutorily required three Board member votes, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 decision in New Process Steel. Since July 2013, however, when the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s new appointees, the Board has operated with a full five members for the first time since 2007.
How The "Quickie" Election Rule Would Change Union Elections
Under the current approach, unions must gather authorization cards from at least 30 percent of employees in the unit sought to be represented in order to file a petition for an election with the NLRB. Sometimes employers know about the organizing drive before the petition is filed, but sometimes, they do not. During the pendency of the election (which is currently about 40 days), employers have an opportunity to “campaign” against unionization by providing employees with information about the union, its tactics, and the costs and disadvantages of joining a union. Once the employees vote in the election and the union is certified, the employees may not seek to decertify the union for at least a year, or until after the expiration of the first collective bargaining agreement, whichever is longer.Continue Reading NLRB Re-Issues Controversial “Quickie” Union Election Rule
We continue our recent end-of-year postings (on new California employment laws and things every employer should resolve to do in 2013) with an update on recent cases by the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB" or "Board"). In late December, 2012, the NLRB issued a series of controversial decisions which from an employer’s perspective cannot be considered Christmas presents. While some of these cases impact only narrow circumstances, each of the decisions dramatically changes the law, always in ways adverse to employers.
The Board’s December 2012 Decisions
In Alan Ritchey, Inc., the Board created an entirely new obligation for employers operating a workplace where a union has been recognized or certified, but no collective bargaining agreement has yet been agreed to. In this setting, the Board concluded, an employer must notify the union and provide it with an opportunity to bargain over individual discretionary discipline before the discipline is imposed. The Board made clear that this obligation requires sufficient advance notice for meaningful bargaining. Moreover, the employer must respond to union requests for information regarding the discipline before such meaningful bargaining can occur. The Board dismissed concerns that the new obligation it had created would be unduly burdensome for employers, suggesting that there may be circumstances in which an employee could be removed from a job prior to bargaining, when leaving employee on the job might present “a serious imminent danger to the employer’s business or personnel.”Continue Reading Obama NLRB Presents Employers With Several Lumps Of Coal
Several weeks ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit weighed in on the ongoing debate in labor law over the definition of who is a “supervisor,” and therefore not eligible to join a union, under the federal National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The opinion, Lakeland Health Care Associates , is but the latest installment in an area of labor law that has been evolving over at least the past decade. While this line of cases, including Lakeland Health Care, are specific to the “supervisor” status of nurses working in the residential care industry, the relevant legal tests are the same for all industries. Employers who may wish to oppose unionization efforts among employees it believes are supervisors will therefore want to continue to pay close attention to these cases to see what could be done to maximize the chance that the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) would also find those employees are supervisors.
LPNs Supervise Other Employees, But Are They “Supervisors” Under The NLRA?
As with many things in labor law, determining who is a “supervisor” is rarely straightforward: simply giving someone the title of “supervisor” is never enough. In many cases employees may have only partial supervisory authority—the issue in cases like Lakeland Health Care is whether the employees had enough supervisory authority to be “supervisors” under the NLRA.Continue Reading 11th Circuit Disagrees With NLRB And Finds Nurses Are “Supervisors” In Lakeland Health Care Decision
On Halloween, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) General Counsel’s Division of Advice handed out a rare treat to employers by issuing two Advice Memos (Mimi’s Café, Case No. 28-CA-0844365 and Rocha Transportation, Case No. 32-CA-086799), deeming two particular (and common forms of) at-will employment policies contained in employee handbooks lawful under the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act").
Earlier this year, an Administrative Law Judge frightened many employers by ruling a particular company’s “at-will” policy violated the Act because it theoretically could make employees believe that they could not form a union or otherwise advocate to change their at-will employment status. That challenged policy stated, “I further agree that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified or altered in any way.” The case, American Red Cross Arizona Blood Services Division, Case No. 28-CA-23443 (February 1, 2012), was settled before the NLRB could review it on appeal.
The Division of Advice’s Halloween memoranda distinguished American Red Cross case from Mimi’s Café and Rocha Transportation – noting that the at-will policy in American Red Cross used the personal pronoun “I” (“I further agree that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified or altered in any way”), which as written essentially constituted an impermissible waiver of any right of employees to try and change at-will status (i.e., to try to form a union). The Division of Advice also noted that the policy in American Red Cross declared that the at-will employment relationship could never be modified under any circumstances whatsoever, which could be interpreted as chilling employees’ rights under the Act to engage in protected concerted activity such as forming a union. Finally, the Division of Advice, perhaps dismissively, noted that American Red Cross had settled before getting to the Board level.Continue Reading Where There Is At-Will, There Is A Way: NLRB Issues New Guidance On “At Will” Employment Policies