The National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that serves as a reminder to employers of their bargaining obligations upon implementing changes to their business. Rigid Pak Corp., 366 NLRB No. 137 (2018) involves a unionized company (“Rigid”) that manufactured and sold plastic products. Rigid maintained an injection-molding division and a blow-molding division housed on different sides of its facility. The injection-molding division manufactured open-head containers, lids, and crates while the blow-molding division manufactured plastic bottles. In 2014, Rigid encountered various financial difficulties, and to address them, the company entered into a supply agreement to outsource its work to a third-party manufacturer.
On July 18, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Labor-Management Standards issued a final rule rescinding the so-called “persuader rule,” a controversial Obama-era regulation requiring employers to disclose advice received regarding opposition to union efforts.
Raytheon Network Centric Systems, 365 NLRB No. 161 (Dec. 15, 2017) (“Raytheon”), is one of several decisions issued this month by the National Labor Relations Board’s (the “Board”) new Republican majority which reverse Obama-era precedent. Raytheon overrules the Board’s decision E.I. du Pont de Nemours, 364 NLRB No. 113 (2016) (“DuPont”), which limited the changes employers can make unilaterally in a union environment. Raytheon clarifies the degree to which employers may rely on past practice to make unilateral changes to terms of employment once a collective bargaining agreement has expired, and, more specifically, offers welcome guidance to employers with regard to continuation of health benefits under those circumstances.
During a week that brought several notable decisions, the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling on Friday, December 15, 2017, overturning its controversial 2011 Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011) (“Specialty Healthcare”) decision, which held that in order for employees to be included in a collective bargaining unit, employers had to prove the employees shared an “overwhelming community of interest” with one another. The unions argued that the “overwhelming community of interest” burden was all but impossible to meet and effectively allowed unions to create “micro-units” of any number, group, or sub-group of employees the unions saw fit. This in turn meant that an employer could be faced with negotiating collective bargaining agreements with multiple groups of employees who often shared the same schedule, workplace, and general terms and conditions of employment, but nonetheless were represented by different locals or divisions of the same or multiple unions. In one particularly glaring example, the Board approved a union’s request for separate bargaining units in each of nine different graduate student departments at Yale University despite the fact that the union already represented existing, university-wide bargaining units.
On December 14, 2017, in a 3-2 decision along party lines, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) issued a decision in The Boeing Company, 365 NLRB No. 154 (2017) case. This is a significant and long-awaited victory for employers grappling with unfair labor practice charges stemming from facially neutral workplace rules and signals the Board’s intent to retreat from regulating non-union activity. Specifically, Boeing rescinds the onerous workplace rule standard in Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB 646 (2004) in favor of a new, more rational test.
The National Labor Relations Board issued a much-anticipated decision on Thursday, overruling its controversial 2015 Browning-Ferris decision that unions and employees argued drastically expanded the definition and scope of the Board’s joint-employer doctrine. In Browning-Ferris, the Board departed from decades of precedent and held that entities who merely possessed—as opposed to directly and immediately exercised—control over workers would be deemed joint employers for purposes of assessing liability under the National Labor Relations Act. The Board used the Browning-Ferris decision to expand its reach under the joint-employer doctrine to include, for example, companies that relied on staffing agencies and in some cases, parent companies that did not exercise immediate or direct control over a subsidiary’s workers, but had the potential authority to affect certain terms and conditions of employment. The Browning-Ferris decision faced heavy criticism from employers as well as an appeal of the decision itself to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Published in Law360
The National Labor Relations Board has an 80-plus year history of administering federal labor law and regulating labor-management relations in the United States. Formed in 1935 by the passage of the original Wagner Act, the board’s primary obligations are to oversee the formation of collective bargaining units, to investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, and to establish legal precedent through regulations and binding case precedents. In carrying out its responsibilities, the board is generally expected to act as a neutral arbiter of facts and cases.
Join us for a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT.
While proactive retail employers are responding to, and preparing for, union organizing efforts at their retail stores, many supply chain workforces remain vulnerable to targeted union campaigns. We will address the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of workforces at warehouses, distribution centers, transport and other supply chain operations. We will review some of the new dynamics in supply chain operations that attract union interest, and offer suggestions to reduce the risk of organizing. Finally, we will review developments in the law, and the potential for rule changes under the Trump NLRB that may have an impact in supply chain organizing considerations.
A common misconception among banks and financial services companies is that if they are non-unionized, the National Labor Relations Act does not apply to them. Hunton & Williams LLP partner Emily Burkhardt Vicente and senior attorney Amber Rogers discuss the key points non-unionized financial services companies should know about the NLRA. View the 5-minute video here.
On February 14th 2017, Hunton labor partner Kurt Larkin will present testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Restoring Balance and Fairness to the National Labor Relations Board.” Kurt will discuss a variety of NLRB issues, including joint employer standards, ambush elections and micro unions. The hearing will take place at 10:00am EST and can be viewed live here.