Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation banning college athletes from unionizing. The new law excludes athletes from the definition of “public employees” permitted to collectively bargain under Michigan law, although a similar law barring graduate assistants at state colleges from unionizing was previously held unconstitutional. The move follows last year’s unionization effort among football players at Northwestern University.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley used her State of the State address to criticize IAM’s efforts organize workers at Boeing Company’s North Charleston assembly plant. Governor Haley stated that South Carolina, a state in which just 3.7 percent of workers are union members, has created a worldclass business climate in part because of the “minimal role” unions play in the state. The IAM is seeking to organize 3,000 Boeing South Carolina based employees that assemble the fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner.
A number of business groups have filed lawsuits challenging the NLRB’s election rule changes scheduled to take effect April 14, 2015. The changes are intended to shorten the time required for union elections, but business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses Texas say the rule changes are arbitrary and contrary to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In a letter to NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pierce, 16 U.S. Senators have urged the Board to defend the rule changes. For more information on NLRB’s election rule changes, see our client briefing NLRB Issues Final Rule Regarding Representation Cases.
Business advocacy groups continue efforts to generate precedentsetting litigation holding that the NLRA does not preempt local governments from enacting righttowork ordinances. At least four Kentucky counties enacted righttowork ordinances in January despite an advisory opinion from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway stating that local governments do not have such authority. The AFLCIO of Kentucky plans a lawsuit challenging the county ordinances as violations of Section 14(b) of the NLRA, which grants states and territories, but not local governments, the right to pass righttowork laws. The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council plan to push similar measures before local governments in Washington and Wisconsin.
Senate Republicans introduced legislation aimed at reforming the NLRB. The bill is sponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lamar Alexander. Among other proposals, it would add a sixth member to the Board and permit parties to challenge actions by the Board’s General Counsel and seek district court review of complaints within 30 days of filing. President Obama is likely to veto the bill if it passes.
President Obama has again nominated Allison Beck, the former General Counsel of the IAM, to head the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Ms. Beck has been Acting Director of the FMCS since 2014 when President Obama initially nominated her. However, the Senate failed to vote on her nomination before the last Congressional session ended.