NLRB Ends Chairwoman’s Term With Three Pro-Union Rulings

The National Labor Relations Board issued three rulings Tuesday that may have wideranging impact on the workplace. As I forecast last August, the board wanted very much to issue these rulings prior to the retirement of Chairwoman Wilma Liebman.

In all three cases, the board sided with the unions. The rulings will make it easier for unions to organize smaller workplaces, enhance a union’s ability to retain majority support via a “card-check” election, and give unions continued representation rights following the sale or merger of a business.

In each case, the board’s three Democrats outvoted the two Republicans to make a majority.

Here are the rulings in brief:

  1. Specialty Healthcare. The board ruled that a union can seek to oganize a group consisting solely of nursing assistants at a long-term care facility. The employer had wanted to include other nonprofessional employees in the unit.
  2. Lamons Gasket Co. This case involved “card check” elections in which employees sign cards to show their interest in joining a union. The board ruled that employees opposed to the union would no longer have the right to immediately challenge an employer’s recognition of a card-check vote.
  3. UGL-Unicco Service Co.  This case had to do with the period following a change of ownership in a company with a unionized workforce. The board ruled that when a company is sold, neither the new owner nor employees nor rival unions can stage an immediate challenge to the union. Instead, they must give a “reasonable period” and “fair chance” for the union to prove its merits in collective bargaining.

Whether you like unions or not, you have to consider these to be big wins for organized labor. But considering the straight party-line votes in each case, it means that if the next president is a Republican, these rulings could be put in jeopardy by new appointments to the board.

So these rulings aren’t necessarily cast in stone for all time.

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