Union Organizing

O.S.H.A. Stands for…the Organizing Safety And Health Administration? OSHA’s New ‘Walkaround’ Rule Provides Entry Point for Unions

April 4, 2024

By Michael D. Billok and Rebecca J. LaPoint

On May 31, 2024, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new “Walkaround” rule will take effect. The amended rule (29 CFR 1903.8(c)) is a sea change for employers, as it was written with the intent of allowing union representatives to participate in OSHA inspections, even in non-union workplaces.

Read More >> O.S.H.A. Stands for…the Organizing Safety And Health Administration? OSHA’s New ‘Walkaround’ Rule Provides Entry Point for Unions

NLRB Restores Expedited Union Election Procedures

August 31, 2023

By Nicholas P. Jacobson

On Aug. 25, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) published a final rule regarding election proceedings. In issuing the rule, the NLRB reinstated election procedures it issued in 2014. These procedures shorten the union election and certification processes and reinstate what have been termed “ambush” elections. In 2019 the NLRB issued a rule replacing many of the provisions of the 2014 rule, but several of the provisions of the 2019 rule were invalidated in AFL-CIO v. NLRB, 57 F.4th 1023 (D.C. Cir. 2023). The NLRB’s latest rule rescinded additional provisions of the 2019 rule. Specifically, the NLRB’s new rule implements the following:

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Conflicting NLRB Stances Create Employer Compliance Plight

July 28, 2023

By Alice B. Stock

The following article by Bond attorney Alice Stock was published by Law360

Can an employer give employees a wage increase or benefits improvement during a union organizing campaign or while negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement after a union has won an election? At present, in most situations, it will be unlawful for an employer to do so.

Read More >> Conflicting NLRB Stances Create Employer Compliance Plight

NLRB General Counsel Issues Sweeping Challenge to Non-Compete Agreements

June 1, 2023

By Thomas G. Eron and Pamela S. Silverblatt

On May 30, 2023 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) General Counsel issued a memorandum advancing the position that non-compete agreements between employers and employees, which limit employees from accepting certain jobs at the end of their employment, interfere with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act). The memo, which is the latest pronouncement in an aggressive agenda to curtail established management practices, and expand the reach of the Act, directs the NLRB’s regional staff to begin enforcement of this novel, expansive interpretation of the law.

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NLRB Restores Obama-Era Bargaining Unit Test

December 16, 2022

By Peter H. Wiltenburg

On Dec. 14, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued a decision that (again) modifies its standard for bargaining-unit determination cases where a labor union seeks to represent a unit that contains some, but not all, of the job classifications at a particular workplace. The decision, in American Steel Construction, Inc., revives the Board’s prior test governing such determinations set forth in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011), which was overruled in PCC Structurals, 365 NLRB No. 160 (2017), and The Boeing Co., 368 NLRB No. 67 (2019).

In its 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision, the Board identified the elements to be satisfied if the proposed union was to be recognized. Among these were that the unit is “sufficiently distinct.” If a party contested the petitioned-for unit on this ground – thereby arguing that certain employees not included in the proposed unit should have been – it would bear the burden of proving that there was an “overwhelming community of interest” between the petitioned-for employees and excluded employees in order to add the excluded employees to the petitioned-for unit. This was a difficult standard for employers to meet and widely recognized as a boon for union organizing.  In the wake of Specialty Healthcare, unusual “microunits” were organized, including cosmetic and fragrance counter employees at a Macy’s department store.  

In its 2017 PCC Structurals decision, the Board overruled Specialty Healthcare and adopted a different test for the “sufficiently distinct” element: instead of the “overwhelming community of interest” test, the Board adopted a test whereby “the interests of those within the proposed unit and the shared and distinct interests of those excluded from that unit must be comparatively analyzed and weighed.” This test therefore removed the burden from the employer challenging the composition of the unit and instituted a balancing test that did not explicitly begin with deference to the petitioned-for unit. The test gave employers far greater ability to oppose recognition of a unit consisting of some, but not all, of the employees within their workplace.  

This week’s decision in American Steel expressly overrules PCC Structurals and Boeing and reinstates the “overwhelming community of interest” standard of Specialty Healthcare. The Board elaborated that this means that when there are only “minimal differences, from the perspective of collective bargaining… then an overwhelming community of interest exists, and that classification must be included in the unit.” The Board indicated that meeting this standard would be akin to showing that “there is no rational basis for the exclusion.” So long as the petitioned-for unit consists of a clearly identifiable group of employees with a shared “community of interest,” the Board will presume the unit to be appropriate. The impact of this decision is to again empower unions and employees to organize along narrower lines of job classification. Even prior to American Steel, employers have seen a significant uptick in organizing activity in the last several years. This decision will likely further invigorate unions to again focus on “micro units” as a path to organizing workplaces, and employers again face the prospects of multiple distinct bargaining units among their employees.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this decision, or other legal developments, please contact Peter Wiltenburg or any attorney in Bond’s labor and employment practice.

NLRB Proposes to Roll Back Union Election Rules

December 1, 2022

By Samuel G. Dobre and Michael Kratochvil

On Nov. 2, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to strengthen protections for unions in the election process. Among other things, the proposal would alter the rules instituted by the Trump Board in 2020 that made it easier for employees to decertify incumbent unions. The proposed changes are purportedly intended to protect workers’ ability to make free choices regarding union representation and to encourage collective bargaining.

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Lessons from Google: What Employers Should Know About Minority Unions

February 16, 2021

By Thomas G. Eron and Hannah K. Redmond

It is no secret that private sector union membership has dramatically decreased over the past several decades. This reality has forced labor organizers to get creative with their efforts. Perhaps this is one reason why stories of a union presence at tech industry giant, Google, have recently gained so much attention. Reports of a “minority union” at Google began to swirl earlier this year after a group of several hundred Google employees announced their creation of the “Alphabet Workers Union.” Named for Google’s parent, Alphabet, Inc., the Alphabet Workers Union was supported by, and now affiliated with, the Communication Workers of America. The union claimed its membership quickly grew to more than 800 members.

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"Quickie" Elections Are Not So "Quickie" Any More: NLRB Amends Union Representation Election Procedures

December 18, 2019

By Subhash Viswanathan

On December 18, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board published a final rule in the Federal Register amending its union representation election procedures to eliminate several aspects of the "quickie" election rule that became effective on April 14, 2015.  The "quickie" election rule provided unions with a significant advantage in the representation process by, among other things, shortening the time period between the filing of a petition and the scheduling of an election and limiting the issues that may be litigated by employers in a pre-election hearing.  The final rule will become effective on April 16, 2020.

Read More >> "Quickie" Elections Are Not So "Quickie" Any More: NLRB Amends Union Representation Election Procedures

Proposed Rule Would Preclude Undergraduate and Graduate Students from Union Organizing

October 4, 2019

By Robert F. Manfredo

On September 23, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that addresses the long-standing issue of whether undergraduate and graduate students who perform services for compensation (including teaching or research) at private colleges and universities can form a union under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Under the proposed rule, student workers would not be able to organize based on the Board’s position that such individuals do not meet the definition of “employee” under Section 2(3) of the NLRA because their relationships with their colleges and universities are predominantly educational, not economic.

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The NLRB Publishes Proposed Rules Amending Procedures in Representation Cases

August 15, 2019

By Justin A. Reyes

On August 12, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) published proposed rules with the goal of protecting “employees’ statutory right of free choice on questions concerning representation.”  The proposed rules would amend three Board policies and practices that are not currently set forth in its rules and regulations:  (1) the “blocking charge policy”; (2) the “voluntary recognition bar”; and (3) the standard of proof required to convert a Section 8(f) collective bargaining relationship into a Section 9(a) bargaining relationship in the construction industry.

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NLRB Holds That Unions Can Organize Temp/Contract Workers Together With Host Employer's Workers

July 13, 2016

By David E. Prager

Temporary, contracted-for, or leased employees who are employed by a “supplier,” but are assigned to work at another employer’s premises, currently comprise as much as 5% of American workers, and are among the fastest growing sectors.  Noting this trend, the National Labor Relations Board, in its Miller & Anderson, Inc. decision this week, announced a new standard that makes it much easier for unions to organize these temporary employees working at another employer’s facility; and further, allows them to be organized in a single bargaining unit together with the host employer’s employees who perform similar functions, if both groups share a “community of interest.” The case addressed a petition by the Sheet Metal Workers for a union election among a group of (a) Miller & Anderson’s workers at its Pennsylvania construction site, together with (b) a second group of sheet metal workers employed by a separate company, Tradesmen International, who had supplied additional workers at the site on a contract basis. Under the Board’s newly-liberalized “joint employer” standards promulgated in its recent Browning-Ferris decision, Miller & Anderson was deemed to be the joint employer of its own sheet metal workers on the site and also those provided by contract with Tradesmen International.  By contrast, however, Tradesmen International had no employment relationship at all with the Miller & Anderson employees.  Both groups -- and both employers -- were included by the Board in a single unit, on the ground that they shared a “community of interest” since they worked side-by-side under common working conditions. Thus, the Board’s decision allowed a single bargaining unit of employees even where there would be two different employers at the bargaining table -- with potentially differing interests -- without the consent of both employers.  Further, it authorized for the first time a bargaining unit with two employers, where one (the “supplier” of temporary help) employed only a portion of the unit, but had no employment relationship with the remainder.  The Board’s majority, however, brushed aside concerns raised by dissenting Board Member Miscimarra that this result would be “unworkable” and lead to “confusion and instability,” holding instead that each employer will be expected to bargain over “jointly employed workers’ terms and conditions which it possesses the authority to control.” This decision should be viewed together with the Board’s newly-expanded joint-employer standards articulated in Browning-Ferris (holding that “indirect” or “potential” control over terms and conditions suffices to show joint employer status; “actual” or “immediate” exercise of control are no longer required).  Together, these cases allow proliferation of combined units including not only employees directly employed by an employer, but also temps performing similar functions, in circumstances that may involve only indirect control by the host company, or incidental collaboration with the temp agency.  The decision appears to be yet another element of the Board’s program to broaden opportunities for unionization. At a minimum, employers who are supplied by agencies with temporary, contract or leased personnel -- and agencies who supply these personnel -- must be wary that these arrangements are now targets for union organizing, and that the user of these personnel is more likely to be viewed as jointly employing both groups.  Employers using these personnel, and agencies who supply them, should closely review their contractual arrangements, and the level of control assigned to each employer in practice, with these issues in mind.