The NLRB ruled that ConAgra Foods Inc. violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) for reprimanding an employee for discussing union activities and for maintaining an overly broad non-solicitation policy. An employee was reprimanded after informing coworkers during the work shift where they could find union authorization cards. The company also posted the non-solicitation policy and explained that the policy limited union discussions to non-working times. The NLRB found the warnings to be unlawful because the discussion only lasted a few seconds, did not interrupt work, and was not a solicitation. The Board also ruled that the letter constituted an overly broad rule that violated the NLRA because employees would understand it to be a prohibition of all union discussions during working time. ConAgra Foods, Inc. & United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 75.

An NLRB administrative law judge (ALJ) held that a Pittsburgh hospital, the target of a union organizing campaign, violated the NLRA when management blocked union representatives from speaking to employees in the cafeteria, required an employee to remove a union sticker when others were permitted to wear other types of insignia in immediate patient care areas, and prohibited workers from posting union material on bulletin boards, while allowing the employer-dominated employee council to post. The judge ordered the hospital to reinstate four discharged employees with back pay, to read the remedial order to the hospital’s 3,500 employees, and to disband the employee council. The judge declined, however, to require that the notice be posted for 120 days (rather than the customary 60 days), as requested by the NLRB General Counsel. UPMC.

A district court judge in Arizona ordered the NLRB to pay more than $50,000 in attorneys’ fees to a food packaging company. The NLRB alleged that the company engaged in unfair labor practices after workers decided to unionize, and sought an injunction requiring the immediate reinstatement of four fired employees. The company argued that the employees resigned after they started using a software that verifies worker employment eligibility after hire. The court held that the NLRB’s demand for reinstatement without eligibility confirmation was illegal and granted the full amount of attorney’s fees requested. Overstreet v. Farm Fresh Company Target One LLC.

An NLRB ALJ held that a New York Hospital violated federal labor law by failing to pay longevity-based raises to nurses after its CBA expired. Although the ALJ found the hospital did not have a contractual obligation to pay the wage increases nine months after the contract had expired, the hospital was required to abide by the wage increase provision under the NLRA. Because the CBA lacked language about post-expiration raises, the union had not waived its right to maintain such a provision. Wilkes-Barre Hospital Co. LLC and Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, AFL-CI.

In an advice memorandum, the NLRB General Counsel’s office advocated that the Board adopt its earlier position (in Alan Ritchey Inc., a decision invalidated by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Noel Canning) that an employer must bargain with a union before making discretionary discipline decisions in certain first contract situations. The Advice Memorandum adopted the reasoning of Alan Ritchey, but concluded a Washington nuclear power facility contractor was not under a bargaining obligation on the facts of the case because the employer applied a negotiated discipline policy that existed under a previously expired CBA. Washington River Prot. Solutions.

The Northern District of Indiana ruled that electronic parts maker DCX-CHOL Enterprises Inc., that had acquired a unionized company and acknowledged its status as a successor employer could not withdraw union recognition. Several months after the acquisition, the employer attempted to withdraw recognition after receiving a petition signed by a majority of employees stating they no longer wished to be represented by the union. The court held that the successor employer was required to recognize and bargain with the union for at least six months under the NLRB’s “successor bar” doctrine. The court ordered that the employer reverse certain unilateral changes to working conditions that had been made, and to recognize and bargain with the union. Lineback v. SMI/Div. of DCX-CHOL Enters., Inc.

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling that the state’s right-to-work law violated the Indiana Constitution’s provision that prohibits the state from demanding work without compensation. The International Union of Operating Engineers had sued the state, arguing that the new right-to-work law forced unions to represent all workers, regardless of whether or not they paid dues, because federal law requires unions to represent every employee fairly. The court disagreed with the union’s position, holding instead that the union’s obligation to represent all employees in a bargaining unit is optional, occurring only when the union elects to be the exclusive bargaining agent. The union says it is considering its options for seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Zoeller v. Sweeney.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found President Obama’s appointment of Craig Becker to the NLRB during a 17-day Senate recess in 2010 was valid under the Constitution’s Recess Appointment Clause. The court determined the appointment was valid because, as the Supreme Court’s ruling in Noel Canning established, the President may make recess appointments during a recess of 10 days or more. The appointment confirmation meant that the NLRB had a quorum when it found that Mathew Enterprise, Inc. violated the NLRA for firing a union activist, lifting a stay on that enforcement order from December 2012. Mathew Enter., Inc. v. NLRB.

Airlines for America, a group representing airline carriers, sued Los Angeles International Airport to block a new city requirement for companies providing services to their planes, including aircraft fueling, cleaning, and providing baggage services, to bargain with unions. The rule mandates that companies providing services negotiate so- called labor-peace agreements with unions representing workers in those fields, even if their employees are not members. The group maintains that this gives the unions enormous leverage because they can seek concessions for agreeing to a no-strike provision. The group also filed suit against the Port of Seattle, seeking to block the planned minimum wage increase of about 3,500 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Airline Serv. Providers Ass’n v. L.A. World Airports.