“Comrades,” said Chappell Phillips, as he grabbed the microphone, “please do not leave the conference. It’s all better from here.” Phillips, an executive at the buffet restaurant chain Golden Corral, stood at a podium in the front of a hotel ballroom in Atlanta, before some one hundred restaurant executives and managers and union avoidance lawyers mingling and sipping weak coffee. Minutes earlier, the government’s top labor watchdog had been standing at the same podium delivering the keynote speech here at the October 2022 summit of the Restaurant Law Center, the legal arm of the National Restaurant Association. Lobbying groups often invite government officials to their conferences to curry favor or gain insight into regulatory developments. But America’s chief enforcer of federal labor law at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had not stuck to the proverbial script.
“The ALU is officially a certified UNION! This is a HUGE moment for the labor movement! Solidarity everyone! Let’s continue to fight for what we deserve!” This jubilant statement was tweeted out Jan. 11 by the Amazon Labor Union after the National Labor Relations Board officially named it the sole bargaining representative for workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse. The NLRB issued its ruling over nine months after the ALU won a representation election by a wide margin at the Staten Island, New York, facility. Rejecting all 25 of Amazon’s objections to the election results, the Board gave Amazon until Jan. 25 to file a “request for review.” Once the ALU won the election April 1, 2022, Amazon could have immediately begun negotiations with the union for a first contract. Instead the union-busting behemoth chose to delay its obligations by filing spurious charges, alleging election misconduct against the ALU and the NLRB.
The Supreme Court is about to consider whether employers can sue unions for perishable goods lost during a strike by claiming they’re intentional property damage. On Jan. 10, the Court will hear oral arguments in Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174, in which a Seattle concrete company is seeking to overturn a Washington Supreme Court decision dismissing its suit against Local 174 for the costs of several truckloads it had to throw out after drivers walked out in 2017. The state court held that Glacier had to wait until the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] ruled on whether the damage was “incidental” to strike conduct protected under the federal National Labor Relations Act.
Draft text of the congressional omnibus spending bill released this week reveals a proposed $25 million increase in funding to the National Labor Relations Board, which would bring the agency’s 2023 federal fiscal year budget to $299 million. Its funding has otherwise been frozen at $274 million for the past nine years; when inflation is taken into account, this effectively amounts to a budget decrease of 25% since 2014, according to calculations cited in an NLRB news release. The proposed hike is well below what leaders from unions like Communications Workers of America and Unite Here have been calling for, and falls short of the (already meager) $319 million President Joe Biden requested. Any failure to robustly fund the NLRB hurts workers’ attempts to win formal union recognition and protect their basic rights, a key reason why anti-union lawmakers have kept the NLRB’s budget slim.
Washington D.C. - The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Union Kitchen violated several labor laws and engaged in union-busting tactics as workers sought to unionize earlier this year, and that management continued to do so throughout the bargaining process, after workers succeeded in formalizing their unit this summer. According to an NLRB complaint reviewed by DCist/WAMU, management at the food retailer wrongfully terminated several employees, interrogated workers about their union activity, hosted mandatory “captive audience” meetings where workers were encouraged to reject organizing efforts, and tried to offer special benefits if workers distanced themselves from the union drive.
As big brands like Amazon, Starbucks, and Chipotle lash back at worker organizing, union-busting is getting long overdue exposure in the press. But while the stories graphically depict the problem, they don’t offer any solutions. Though many of the common tactics of union-busting are illegal, there are only insignificant penalties that fail to discourage its lucrative practice. This is the only area of law where attorneys can advise clients to commit perjury in federal court without fear of disbarment or even censure. A union leader who understands leverage and human nature, though, can unmask their deception. Union-busting on a plant-wide scale usually takes place under three circumstances: organizing drives, first contract negotiations, and attempts to decertify an existing local.
The American labor movement finds itself in a “good news, bad news” situation — which is better than the standard “bad news, bad news” situation, but just as perilous. This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that in the past nine months, petitions that workers have filed to unionize with the agency have risen by 56% over the previous year. This is a clear and tangible sign of what public opinion polls have already told us: In the aftermath of the pandemic, with a union-friendly president in the White House, workers are more enthusiastic to form unions than they have been in many years. Organized labor is always pining for a moment of opportunity, and that opportunity is here. Right now. Then there’s the bad news. In the same press release trumpeting the boom in union election filings, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo made a pointed case that the institution is starved for resources.
The budget for the National Labor Relations Board for fiscal year 2022 was $274 million, which might sound like a lot of money. But it is the same amount as the Board’s budget for Trump-era fiscal years 2021 and 2020, and that is a problem. In fact, the NLRB has not had an increase in funding since 2014, the year that the Republicans took control of Congress during the Obama administration and reignited their decades-old campaign to deep-six workers’ rights to unionize. No increase “means a cut to the agency’s funds, due to inflation and other factors,” explains Burt Pearlstone, president of the NLRBU, the union representing workers at the agency.
Sanchez and McGlawn are two of the seven workers, known as the “Memphis Seven,” who were fired by Starbucks in February, just weeks after they announced their plans to form a union there. In a blatantly illegal move, the company terminated the workers (about a third of the entire staff) for supposedly violating company policy after they met with reporters in the store to talk about unionization efforts. But almost all of the workers who were fired were involved in organizing for the union, and it is clear that the terminations were a direct act of retaliation designed to crush these workers’ efforts to form a union and put an end to the unionization wave spreading throughout the company. The National Labor Relations Board has called the firings illegal, and has already filed complaints against the company.
According to the settlement, the online behemoth Amazon said it would reach out to its warehouse workers — former and current — via email who were on the job anytime from March 22 to now to notify them of their organizing rights. The settlement outlines that Amazon workers, which number 750,000 in the U.S., have more room to organize within the buildings. For example, Amazon pledged it will not threaten workers with discipline or call the police when they are engaging in union activity in exterior non-work areas during non-work time. According to the terms of the settlement, the labor board will be able to more easily sue Amazon— without going through a laborious process of administrative hearings — if it found that the online company reneged on its agreement.
In a victory for employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, a federal labor official on Monday formally directed a new union election following allegations that the company engaged in illegal misconduct leading up to an unsuccessful vote in April. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), celebrated the order from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 10 Director Lisa Henderson, which a spokesperson for the agency confirmed to multiple media outlets. "Today's decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace—and as the regional director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal," Appelbaum said.
Employee rights advocates say this Labor Day’s family barbecues and union solidarity picnics will take place in the shadow of a Trump administration that has quietly stacked the National Labor Relations Board with anti-labor members. The federal agency is far less well-known than the IRS or EPA, but its five presidential appointees issue rulings with often far-reaching consequences for America’s working men and women. The NLRB was created in 1935 to oversee collective bargaining and protect labor standards...
Inherent in the ridiculous human condition is the necessity that we continually relearn lessons of the past, the hard way. Such is the case today. Guess what happens when the government and power structure forsake labor peace? Labor war. Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board—the governmental body charged with protecting workers’ rights—ruled that “Employers don’t violate federal labor law by misclassifying their workers as independent contractors instead of employees.” Which is to say, they ruled that breaking law is not a violation of labor law.
The reported settlement of a landmark case against McDonald’s at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) deals a blow to Fight for $15’s union ambitions, widening the chasm between the campaign’s astonishingly successful wage demand and its faltering union aspirations. The settlement, negotiated by Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, requires McDonald’s to pay damages for retaliatory measures taken against workers who organized with Fight for $15. However, the agreement prevents a ruling in the case, dealing a blow to labor.
By Celine McNicholas for Portside - Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed its brief in NLRB v.Murphy Oil, which will be argued in the Supreme Court in October. The case will determine whether mandatory arbitration agreements with individual workers that prevent them from pursuing work-related claims collectively are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The brief makes clear what is at stake for workers if the Supreme Court were to rule against the NLRB in this matter. The NLRA guarantees workers the right to stand together for “mutual aid and protection” when seeking to improve their wages and working conditions. Employer interference with this right is prohibited. However, increasingly, employers are requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements that force them to waive their rights to collective actions, and handle workplace disputes as individuals. In practice, that means that even if many workers faced the same type of dispute at work, each individual employee must hire their own lawyer, and must resolve their disputes out of court, behind closed doors, with only their employer and a private arbitrator.