The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that an employer was bound to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement despite the fact that the document was never signed. Overturning the district court, the court found that the union president’s notes representing the terms of a negotiated CBA constituted a binding agreement. The court further ruled that because the employer abided by the terms of the notes for two years, it could not now dispute the terms by claiming it never agreed to them. Russ v. S. Water Mkt., Inc.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated an NLRB decision that found a South Carolina company illegally fired two workers because of their pro-union activity. The court said that the Wright Line knowledge requirement entails proving that the decision-maker had actual knowledge about an individual’s union activity. In this instance, the court found there was no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that any company official involved in the termination decision was aware of the workers’ union activity. Absent such evidence, supervisors’ knowledge of the union activity could not be imputed to the employer. Gestamp S.C., LLC v. NLRB.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court’s dismissal of two separate suits filed against the AFL-CIO. In the first case, a previously affiliated carpenters’ union accused the AFL-CIO of exerting economic pressure on the union and causing it to lose members, dues, contracts, and job opportunities in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The court held that these allegations failed to state a predicate act and did not amount to extortion under RICO. In the second case, the carpenters’ union alleged that the ALF-CIO breached its duty of fair representation by expelling carpenters as stewards because of their membership in the carpenters’ union. The court held that the duty of fair representation allows a union to select and remove stewards on the basis of union affiliation and found there was no breach. United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America et. al. v. Building and Construction Trades Department AFL-CIO et. al. andUnited Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America et. al. v. Metal Trades Department AFL-CIO et. al.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a union member’s breach of fair representation and retaliation claims. The member claimed that the union breached its duty of fair representation by changing its hiring system from exclusive or seniority-based referral-only to nonexclusive and that it retaliated against him when he complained about the changes. The court found there was no evidence to indicate that the union’s decision was arbitrary or unreasonable or that the new system discriminated against its members. The court also found there was no evidence of any union retaliation. Lydon v. Electrical Workers IBEW Local 103.
The District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a hotel owner was bound by a collective bargaining agreement executed prior to its ownership based on its joint employer and agency relationship with the managing company that executed the agreement. The court rejected the hotel owner’s argument that it was the hotel workers’ sole employer, finding that the management company wielded sufficient control over the employees’ hiring and firing, discipline, and supervision to be considered their joint employer. The court also found that the management company was an agent of the hotel owner based on the terms of their contract, which provided that the management company would “act solely as agent” of the hotel owner. Chelsea Grant, LLC v. N.Y. Hotel & Motel Trades Council.
A Western District of Tennessee court declined to lift a preliminary injunction against Kellogg Co., holding that an administrative law judge (ALJ) ruling that Kellogg did not violate federal labor law did not support dissolving the injunction. In July, the court ordered Kellogg Co. to end a nine-month lockout at its Memphis cereal plant, finding that the company’s demand to change new and rehired unionized workers’ wage rates constituted an unfair labor practice. A week later, an NLRB ALJ ruled that Kellogg Co.’s conduct was lawful. Nonetheless, the court kept the injunction in place, explaining injunctive relief was still proper under Section 10(j) – which authorizes injunctive relief pending final Board adjudication – and that the ALJ decision was not a final agency action.McKinney v. Kellogg Co.
A federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Minnesota refused to enjoin SEIU Healthcare Minnesota from negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the state. Nine home healthcare workers represented by the National Right to Work Foundation argued that the state’s recognition of the SEIU interferes with their rights to freedom of association under the First Amendment. The court found this argument unpersuasive and denied the injunction, holding that the recognition of the union only makes the SEIU the workers’ exclusive bargaining representative and does not force nonmembers to associate with or join the union. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota won an election petition in August and is certified to represent the state’s 27,000 home healthcare workers.Bierman v. Dayton.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware granted a motion authorizing the Trump Taj Mahal to change certain terms of its collective bargaining agreement with UNITE HERE. Under the ruling, the casino may: shift workers from a defined benefit pension plan to a 401(k) defined contribution retirement plan; withdraw from the union health and welfare plan; reduce the amount of holiday pay; and eliminate guarantee pay for a full shift in the event an employee does not work a full shift. These changes are estimated to save the casino $14.6 million annually and allow the casino to remain in operation. UNITE HERE Local 54 represents 1,100 workers at the casino, more than one-third of the casino’s total employees. In re Trump Entm’t Resorts, Inc.
A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York denied a contractor’s motion to enjoin union agents’ inflatable rat display at its job sites. The contractor claims that the union display violates a collective bargaining agreement provision prohibiting “disruptive activity.” The judge ruled that the Norris-LaGuardia Act preempts the court from intervening in a labor dispute and that in any event, the collective bargaining agreement provision was only intended to stop activity similar to strikes or work stoppages and there was no evidence that the display had an impact on labor. Microtech Contracting Corp. v. Mason Tenders Dist. Council of Greater N.Y.
An Illinois appellate court held that Illinois must honor the wage commitments it agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement reached with Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The court rejected the state’s argument that the collective bargaining agreement has no binding effect because the Illinois General Assembly had not appropriated funds for the 2 percent wage increase provided in the agreement. The court explained that the state is bound by constitutional provisions that bar it from enacting laws impairing its contractual obligations. The court ordered Illinois to pay $112 million in back wages owed to more than 25,000 state employees. Illinois v. AFSCME Council 31.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a union’s failure to comply with arbitration procedures deprived an arbitration panel of jurisdiction, voiding Gettysburg police officers’ pay raise. IBT Local 776 failed to provide timely written notice of arbitration to the borough, did not declare an impasses, and did not list issues in dispute as required. The court rejected the union’s argument that the borough waived objection to the panel’s jurisdiction, explaining that good faith negotiations are immaterial to whether an arbitral panel has subject-matter jurisdiction. Borough of Gettysburg v. Teamsters Local No. 776.
In a divided decision, the NLRB stood by its D.R. Horton ruling, stating that the case was rightly decided. Applying the controversial opinion, the majority held that Murphy Oil’s arbitration agreements violated the NLRB because they bar employees from pursuing class actions. The Board also held the gas station chain violated federal labor law by attempting to enforce the arbitration agreements in court after a former employee filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The dissent wrote that the majority’s ruling ignores “clear instructions” from the U.S. Supreme Court and the opinions of dozens of federal and state courts and pressed the Board to overruleD.R. Horton. Murphy Oil USA Inc.
The NLRB held that drivers based at the Connecticut terminal of a FedEx Ground Package Systems Inc. unit were employees and not independent contractors and that FedEx unlawfully refused to recognize and collectively bargain with the union that sought to represent the drivers. The Board found that various factors pointed to employee status, including: FedEx control over the drivers’ work; that the drivers are not engaged in a distinct business; the drivers’ work is done under FedEx’s direction; that the drivers need no special skills; the drivers have a permanent working relationship with FedEx; FedEx establishes, regulates, and controls the drivers’ pay rate; and the drivers’ work is part of the regular business of FedEx, which is in the same business as the drivers. The Board declined to follow a D.C. Circuit 2009 decision which found that FedEx drivers in Massachusetts were independent contractors based on an inquiry focused on entrepreneurial opportunity.FedEx Home Delivery, an Operating Division of FedEx Ground Package Systems Inc. and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 671.
In a divided decision, the NLRB held that when a successor employer unilaterally changes the predecessor’s terms and conditions of employment, the make-whole remedy will include restoration of the predecessor’s terms and conditions until the parties bargain in good faith to agreement or impasse. The Board reversed its previous policy as expressed in Planned Building Services, holding that an employer may no longer attempt to prove what the terms and conditions would have been if it had complied with its obligation to bargain. Pressroom Cleaners.
The NLRB ruled that a Hawaiian hotel operator’s history of “egregious and pervasive” labor violations and contempt warranted an order that the company reimburse the NLRA and the union for bargaining and representational expenses and that it post and distribute an employees’ right notice for three years. For 10 years, the company had violated its bargaining obligations, imposed unilateral changes in employment terms, interfered with union access to employees and wrongfully surveilled employees’ union activities. The company also failed to comply with NLRB orders and federal court injunctions. HTH Corp.
The NLRB upheld an ALJ ruling that a youth program provider did not violate labor law by terminating two employees for a profanity-ridden Facebook conversation. The employees exchanged a series of posts on Facebook disparaging their employer and expressing insubordination, including discussing plans to take youth on unapproved field trips and to allow the youth to graffiti the walls. The Board held that the employees’ conversation was so insubordinate that it lost the Act’s protection for concerted activity. Richmond District Neighborhood Center.
The National Mediation Board held that Menzies Aviation, an airline contractor that provides baggage, ramp, and aircraft services, is not governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). While the NLRA generally governs labor disputes, disputes that arise at airlines, railroads, and contractors that perform the same functions as, and are under the control of, airlines and railroads, are governed by the RLA. The Board held that the RLA did not apply to Menzies, however, because although Alaska Airlines accounts for 85 percent of the contractor’s work and imposes certain performance requirements, the Airline does not exercise sufficient control over the contractor’s personnel decisions.
An NLRB ALJ held that a New York hospital that fired a supervisor for insubordination after she voted in a representation election violated the NLRA. Both the Hospital and the Union later agreed that the supervisor was ineligible to vote and discounted her vote, however, the ALJ found that supervisors have a right to vote, even if challenged, and are still protected if they are invoking or attempting to invoke the Board’s process. The ALJ recommended that the supervisor be reinstated with backpay. TLC Health Network.
In a memorandum from the NLRB Division of Advice, the NLRB Assistant General Counsel (AGC) found that a union did not violate an employee’s right to engage in protected activity when it terminated her for disclosing confidential information to a co-worker. The employee warned a co-worker that the union planned to change its leave policy and that the co-worker was under scrutiny for abusing leave benefits. Upon discovering the leak, the union suspended and then fired the employee. The AGC concluded that because the employee learned of the information solely because of her job responsibilities, by disclosing the information she violated her duty to maintain confidentiality and was thus lawfully terminated for breaching that duty. Machinists District Lodge 751.