• A U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted a preliminary injunction against Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 638, prohibiting the union from processing internal union charges and taking other disciplinary actions against Andrew Price, the individual who brought the suit and other union members who voiced their opposition to the union’s organizing effort. Carpenters Local 638 has historically represented carpenters, millwrights, cabinet workers, and flooring installers, but expanded to create a new unit, Local 57, as an electrical workers division. Price opposed the creation of Local 57 and expressed his view by placing a bumper sticker on his personal truck. The union warned Price and then brought charges against him, prompting his filing of the lawsuit. The judge found that the “LMRDA protects his right to express his views on [these] issues without fear or reprisal” and granted a preliminary injunction against the union. The judge explained that Price was not engaged in unprotected “dual unionism,” as the union had alleged. Price v. Carpenters’ Dist. Council of St. Louis & Vicinity.
  • The NLRB now requires employers and labor organizations that customarily use intranets, websites, e-mails, or other electronic communications to communicate with employees or union members will now be required to distribute notices electronically to remedy unfair labor practices, in addition to posting paper notices. The 3-1 decision came on the heels of the Board’s issuance of an invitation for interested parties to file briefs in several cases that presented the issue.
  • The NLRB unanimously adopted a new policy providing that compound interest on back pay and other monetary awards will be applied on a daily basis in unfair labor practice cases. Previously, the board had ordered simple interest on back pay awards, compounded quarterly. In deciding to adopt compound rather than simple interest, the Board rejected arguments that it should address the issue through rulemaking and exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis, rather than fashioning a general rule. The new policy will apply retroactively and will be applied in all pending cases, absent manifest injustice.
  • In a 2-1 decision, the NLRB reversed the dismissal of a United Auto Workers local’s petition for a vote on union representation by university graduate assistants at New York University. The case addresses a 10-year dispute over the unionization of graduate students. Initially, the Board held that graduate assistants were employees within the meaning of the NLRA, and thus eligible to join a union and bargain collectively. That decision was overruled shortly thereafter by the Brown University decision. In October 2010, a two-member majority, consisting of Members Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce, found that there were “compelling reasons” to reconsider the Board’s 2004 Brown University decision, but did not go so far as to overrule its precedent. Rather, they reversed a regional director who relied on Brown University in dismissing the petition and remanded for the development of a full evidentiary record. Member Brian E. Hayes dissented, writing that the case presented no reason for review or reconsideration of Brown University. New York Univ., 356 N.L.R.B. No. 7.
  • The NLRB announced a new initiative, whereby section 10(j) injunctions will be fast-tracked into federal court in cases involving reinstatement of employees who are fired in the midst of union-organizing campaigns. The initiative mandates that NLRB regional directors investigate allegations of an illegal firing immediately and then submit their recommendation to the general counsel’s office within seven days if they have merit. Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, Lafe Solomon, stated that he will personally review each case to see whether he agrees with the recommendation for the injunction. The NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman is considering additional procedural initiatives in order to expedite the injunction process.
  • The NLRB issued 315 decisions in fiscal year 2010, a 20 percent increase from fiscal year 2009. Since the June New Process Steel case, in which the Supreme Court held that the board lacked authority to rule with only two members, the board has ruled on 70 of the 96 cases that were then pending. Although the volume of decisions has risen in 2010, the number of pending cases continues to be far lower than it was in the Clinton Board or the Bush-I Board. Regardless, NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman remains resolute: “My goal for the coming year is to clear the decks of the oldest cases, which will bring long-awaited resolution to the parties and allow us to move on to new issues.”
  • An NLRB report to the general counsel on the quality of agency litigation efforts indicated that the board’s regional offices are “doing a superb job” of litigating unfair labor practice cases before the NLRB and its ALJs. The report also noted that the litigation success rate for fiscal year 2010 through August is 92.3 percent, up from 89.8 percent for 2009. The NLRB committee responsible for the report reviewed 47 cases and identified areas for improvement, including a recommendation that regional offices should be sure that cases are adequately staffed. The committee reviewed bargaining cases and commented that in several cases, “there was an argument for finding the conduct to be violative, but taken in context, the case should have been dismissed or handled through a merit dismissal.” The committee also recommended that regions should attempt to identify inconsistencies between witness accounts because, often, inconsistent testimony requires additional preparation and strategy on the part of the region.