On Friday, a federal court judge issued an order (pdf) that will effectively permit the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) final rule (pdf) changing its 75-year-old representation election policy to proceed as planned. On May 17, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to prevent the NMB from implementing this change to the election process that will make it easier for unions to organize airline and railroad employees. Under the long-established approach, a majority of employees eligible to vote in representation elections determined the outcome of the election. As a result, employees who chose not to participate are effectively viewed as “no union” votes. The NMB’s new rule changes this policy by basing the voting outcome on the majority of those who actually vote, as is closer to the practice in non NMB-governed industries.
U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Require Arbitration Over Date of Formation of Collective Bargaining Agreement, Remands Federal Claim Against the International Union
On June 24, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pro-employer opinion in Granite Rock, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., (pdf) providing valuable guidance on the arbitrability of disputes over the timing of the formation of collective bargaining agreements.
The Court (7-2) held that the question of exactly when the parties formed an agreement to arbitrate certain disputes was not itself subject to resolution through arbitration. The Court also declined to recognize Granite Rock’s cause of action under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ (IBT) for tortious interference with a collective bargaining agreement. The Court remanded the case to the lower court to allow Granite Rock to proceed against the International on the theory that the local union was acting as the IBT’s agent when it refused to abide by the no-strike clause of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) general counsel (GC) has issued guidance (pdf) to the agency’s regional officers and directors on how to process unfair labor practice (ULP) charges involving employee class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements. The GC explained that questions have arisen “regarding the validity of mandatory arbitration agreements that prohibit arbitrators from hearing class action employment claims while at the same time requiring employees to waive their right to file any claims in a court of law, including class action claims.” In essence, the GC concluded that such class action waivers do not per se violate the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) provisions allowing employees to engage in protected, concerted activity, but that certain principles must be followed.
On Tuesday, the Senate officially confirmed (pdf) the nominations of Mark Hayes and Brian Pearce to be members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The two were included in a package of more than 60 nominees confirmed by voice vote. President Obama previously gave recess appointments to Pearce and Craig Becker, whose nomination failed to advance in the Senate. Controversial nominee Craig Becker, whose recess appointment expires at the end of 2011, was not among those nominees confirmed today. With the addition of Hayes, the Republican nominee, the current composition of the Board and the duration of the members’ terms are as follows:
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has issued a directive on its verification procedures under Executive Order (E.O.) 13496, Notification of Employee Rights under Federal Labor Laws. (pdf) This E.O. mandates that all government contracting departments and agencies include a provision in government contracts covered by the order stipulating that contractors and subcontractors post a notice “in all places where notices to employees are customarily posted both physically and electronically,” informing them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) published a final rule (pdf) implementing this E.O. last month. The OFCCP is responsible for investigating complaints, performing compliance evaluations, conciliating compliance issues, and referring violations to the OLMS for enforcement. The directive published online this week outlines the processes and procedures it will use to perform these tasks.
Potentially invalidating hundreds of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or “Board”) decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) requires that the NLRB must operate with at least three members in order to exercise its full authority. In New Process Steel v. NLRB, (pdf) the Court rejected the argument that the NLRA’s delegation and quorum clauses enable the Board to act with only two members, which it had done from January 2008 through March of this year when President Obama used the recess appointment process to add members Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the two-member panel.
On June 9, 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or “Board”) made a move wholly consistent with its anticipated commitment to implementing “significant change.” Specifically, the Board revealed that it is exploring the future use of electronic and internet voting in representation elections. Pursuant to longstanding secret ballot election standards, no such electronic or internet means for casting votes (remote or otherwise) in a Board-conducted election is recognized as permissible. As the controversial and newest Board Members Craig Becker and Mark Pearce start getting situated among their two sitting colleagues, the NLRB’s efforts to alter well-settled Board election standards seem to be in full swing.
As a result of the NLRB’s June 3, 2010 decision (pdf) refusing to review a regional director’s ruling that the interns and residents at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York, are employees, the ballots they cast in a union election on June 18, 2009 will shortly be counted. The results of the vote will determine whether the hospital’s interns and residents will be joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The central issue presented by the election petition filed by an SEIU local in 2009 was whether the hospital’s interns and residents were “employees” with the right to organize, or students not covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Continue reading this entry at Littler's Healthcare Employment Counsel blog.
Photo credit: Steve Debenport Imagery