Posts Tagged ‘National Labor Relations Board’

NLRB Rules Grad Students Can Unionize

Graduate research and teaching assistants at private universities now have the legal winds at their backs in their drive to negotiate better wages and working conditions for themselves, courtesy of today’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in a case brought against Columbia University.

Those researchers and assistants are “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act, the board declared.

In this 3 to 1 ruling, the NLRB overturned a 2004 ruling denying graduate students at Brown University the right to unionize. This should make this right available to graduate students in private universities across the United States.

Past bans on the unionization of graduate students at private universities “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the act without a convincing justification,” the NLRB decision says.

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn the decision as another what they see as an example of NLRB activism. A statement issued by Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in part:

Teaching and research programs for graduate students are important learning opportunities that help individuals gain knowledge and skills to succeed in the future. Not only will today’s decision limit these programs, but it will increase college costs and impose new obstacles on hardworking men and women trying to build their careers. We will continue working to push back on the NLRB’s activist agenda and to make it easier—not harder—for more Americans to pursue the dream of higher education.

You can access the NLRB’s ruling here.

NLRB: Whole Foods’ Prohibition on Recording Conversations, Taking Videos Violates Labor Law

Employers should think twice before adopting any policy that restricts employees from taking their conversations or taking photographs in the workplace.

Whole Food’s policy prohibiting workers from taking photos or recording conversations inside a store “unless prior approval is received” from a manager or executive, or “unless all parties to the conversation give their consent” was a violation of federal labor law, the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday.

Ostensibly, Whole Foods put this policy in place for the benefit workers–“to eliminate a chilling effect on the expression of views that may exist when one person is concerned that his or her conversation with another is being secretly recorded.”

In a 2-1 decision, however, an NLRB majority ruled that the policy violated the National Labor Relations Board and had the very chilling effect that Whole Foods claimed it sought to prevent. Such a blanket prohibition, for example, could forbid employees from taking photos that document unsafe working conditions, or recording statements that reveal discrimination.

You can download the ruling in the Whole Foods case from the NLRB’s website.

Hearing This Week on Overturning NLRB’s “Joint Employer” Ruling in Browning-Ferris Indus. Case

If you are in our nation’s capital on Tuesday, be sure to stop in at Congress where Republicans will take the next step in their drive to overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s “joint employer” decision.

The hearing chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn) of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, will take direct aim at the NLRB’s ruling in the Browning-Ferris Industries case, in which the board expanded the joint employer doctrine to include employers who have indirect or potential control over employment conditions.

Under pre-Browning rules, two companies could be joint employers only if they shared actual, direct, and immediate control over the terms and conditions of employment.

According to the Republicans, the new ruling overturned “decades of settled labor policy.” To reverse it, they’ve introduced a bill called the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act. This legislation would reaffirm that multiple employers must have “actual, direct, and immediate” control over employees to be considered joint employers.

The hearing will convene at 10 a.m. in Room 2261 of the House Rayburn Office Building.


Obama Vetoes Congressional Resolution to Block NLRB Rule Speeding Up Union Elections

The National Labor Relations Board can go ahead with its rule shortening the time between union recognition petitions and elections, following today’s veto by President Obama of a congressional resolution to block the rule.

The rule, which opponents dub the “ambush rule,” would shorten the time in which a union certification election is held from the current median of 38 days to as little as 11.

Congressional Republicans were having nothing of that, charging that this would too little time to mount campaigns to convince employees not to unionize.

“Workers deserve a level playing field that lets them freely choose to make their voices heard, and this requires fair and streamlined procedures for determining whether to have unions as their bargaining representative.” Obama said in his veto message. “Because this resolution seeks to undermine a streamlined democratic process that allows American workers to freely choose to make their voices heard, I cannot support it.”

The Senate voted down the rule earlier this month.

NLRB: Employers Must Include Employees’ Phone Numbers, E-Mail Addresses in Voter Lists

Employers facing union drivers shouldn’t hold all the advantages when it comes to communicating with employees who the union is wooing, the National Labor Relations Board decided last week.

The board last Friday issued a set of regulations to create a more level playing field in union representation cases, which ultimately determine whether a workplace should be unionized or not.

Under the new set of procedures, employers faced with a union petition will have to provide additional contact information, including personal telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, in voter lists supplied to unions and other parties. The purpose of this requirement, according to the board’s announcement, is to “enhance a fair and free exchange of ideas by permitting other parties to communicate with voters about the election using modern technology.”

A main thrust of the new rules is to reduce the time between the filing of an election petition and the holding of the election.  Business critics of the new rules call them an effort to legitimize “ambush elections” in which employers don’t have time to rebut the arguments of the pro-union forces.

The rules were approved in a 3-2 divided board vote and business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce have vowed to file suit to stop them.

Don’t be surprised if the new rules aren’t also  subject to debate in the next Congress which convenes in January.

Here’s the NLRB’s fact sheet on the new rules.


NLRB Affirms Norton Ruling, Declaring Employers Can’t Bar Employees From Filing Suit

If your company is attempting to enforce a mandatory arbitration clause that makes employees give up their right to file a lawsuit, expect continued resistance from the National Labor Relations Board.

Earlier this week the full board affirmed a 2012 ruling, known as the D.R. Horton case, that such clauses violate employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, which protect employees’ rights to take collective action.

Subsequent to that 2012 ruling, the Fifth Circuit held that such arbitration agreements were enforceable, as the NLRB “did not give proper weight to the Federal Arbitration Act” in holding the agreement unenforceable.

In a 3-2 vote, the full board this stuck to the D.R. Horton principle going forward.

You can access the board’s ruling here.

Sweet Smell: Union Can Organize Cosmetic, Fragrance Department Employees at Macy’s

Unions scored a victory last week in their efforts to organize smaller groups of employees into separate bargaining units.

Forty one employees in the fragrance and cosmetics department at a Macy’s store in Saugus, Massachusetts can comprise a bargaining unit under the National Labor Relations Act,  the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week.

The board majority said that the workers shared “a community of interest” to be recognized for bargaining purposes, and that Macy’s hadn’t shown that they should be grouped with other employees in the store.

Macy’s and other retailers fought against recognition of these micro groups of workers and prefer that the entire store be recognized as one bargaining unit.

But the 3-1 board majority sided with the United Food and Commercial Workers, citing a 2011 board ruling, Specialty Healthcare, in which the board ruled that a union could try organizing a group that consisted only of nursing assistants at a long-term care facility.

You can access the full text of the board’s ruling here.