Union Membership Increases Chances of Marriage

In modern mating, job security, wages, and health benefits are important signals that boost one’s chances in the marriage market.

Who knew that a union card was a turn-on?

Well, that might not be literally the case, but a new study finds that for men, union membership can boost their chances of getting hitched.

Research shows that for men, income correlates with marriage rates: The decline in marriage is more pronounced for men in middle and lower income groups. This basic relationship caused sociologists Daniel Schneider and Adam Reich to wonder: Would union membership—which is supposed to lift a person’s wages—also lift a person’s chance at being married?

Using 25 years of data from a cohort of men and women from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, they found evidence that union membership is positively associated with marriage for men, though the relationship was not statistically significant for women in unions.

“We argue that membership in a labor union may increase the marriageability of young men and women either by helping to secure economic benefits in the present or by sending a signal to potential mates about the stability and certainty of future economic prospects,” they write. “We find that men covered by collective bargaining have a significant advantage in first marriage and that this relationship remains after adjusting for possible confounding characteristics such as age, education, region, and attitudes.”

Additionally, they also found that for both men and women, there’s a strong relationship between health insurance coverage and first marriage: Men with healthcare had 30 percent higher odds, and women 16 percent. At the end of the day though, the researchers conclude that it might be that union membership is a signal in the marriage market that a person is secure financially in the longterm.

Union membership has declined drastically in the last three decades: The Labor Department reports that 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers were union members. That number was 20.1 percent in 1983. With research like Schneider and Reich’s in hand, it seems that more than a worker’s job and compensation are at stake in these shifts.

After all, the landscape and expectations for marriage are changing for both men and women. The median age for a first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men, and a recent Pew study found that 23 percent of men and 17 percent of women above 25 have never been married, up from 10 percent and 8 percent in 1960.

The above article, written by Bourree Lam, first appeared in The Atlantic on November 9, 2014

NLRB Arbitration Agreement Antics Continue

The National Labor Relations Board recently found the arbitration agreements of three companies unlawful. A clothing store, grocery chain, and limousine company each had their arbitration agreements axed by the Board for prohibiting employees from acting concertedly against their employer. Specifically, clothing store Ross Stores required employees to agree to the arbitration policy that required resolution by mediation or “final and binding arbitration and not by a court or jury” as a condition of employment.

As for the grocery chain, Bristol Farms, the Board said that it violated the National Labor Relations Act by “maintaining mutual agreement to arbitrate that employees reasonably would believe bars or restricts their right to file charges with the NLRB.” The limousine company had its employees sign a similar arbitration agreement, but also containing an explicit class action waiver.

The rulings of all three cases relied on the Board’s D.R. Horton decision outlawing mandatory arbitration agreements. D.R. Horton remains binding precedent for NLRB proceedings despite being overruled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. These cases continue to prove that mandatory arbitration agreements will be found unlawful at the ALJ level and on appeal by the NLRB. However, on further appeal, courts will likely continue to find them lawful. The only remaining question is whether employers have the desire and ability to reach the circuit court level.

The Inner-Workings of the PBGC Taking Over Union Pension Plans

Many of my clients are suffocating under the weight of unfunded pension liabilities. They ask me what happens if they sell the company, what happens if they get rid of the union, what happens if they file bankruptcy, etc. While answering each of those questions depends on a myriad of specific facts and legal analysis, here is a peek behind Reichhold, Inc.’s plans to sell its assets in bankruptcy and abandon its employees’ union pension plan. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) will take over the pension plan and pay the retirement benefits for more than 4,500 current and future retirees of Reichold. The retirement plan is 70% funded leaving a $97 million shortfall of which the PBGC will cover $90 million. Employees who retire at age 65 with a 100% vested pension will be eligible for up to $59,320 per year.

Sometimes It’s Good for Human Resources to Not Know What’s Going On

Employees Kingsmore and Alexander worked for Gestamp in South Carolina and tried to organize their co-workers into joining the United Steelworkers union. Their union organizing activity was known by their supervisors, but not by the human resource department. Kingsmore and Alexander were terminated for falsifying their application and time sheet, respectively. The termination was solely the decision of the HR Department, and the person who terminated the employees did not seek input from the workers’ supervisors.

The Administrative Law Judge and the NLRB on appeal agreed that the terminations were unlawfully motivated because of the employees’ union organizing efforts. According to them, the supervisors’ knowledge of the workers union organizing activity was imputed onto the HR Department. On further appeal, though, the Fourth Circuit overturned the ALJ and NLRB decisions. According to the Fourth Circuit, the union never proved, through circumstantial evidence or otherwise, that the person who decided to terminate the employees had knowledge of their union organizing activity. This is good news for employers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Tennessee UAW Tries to Intimidate Employees Who Lawfully Exercise Right to Work Options

The United Auto Workers union lost a very public election campaign at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plan several months ago. Down, but not out, the union has vowed to organize auto manufacturers in the south, including those in Tennessee, which is a right to work state. Employees in right to work states have the option to not join a union if they don’t want to. On the flip side, employees in non-right to work states must be members of a union if a union represents workers in their job classification at their company.

UAW Local 1585 recently published the names and workstations of more than 40 workers at the Spring Hill, Tennessee General Motors plant who have opted out of the union. The Union calls it a “Scab Report,” since scab is a derogatory word for non-union workers. The report says, “The following individuals are NON-dues paying workers. They have chosen to STOP paying Union Dues and still reap the rewards of your negotiated benefits. If you work near one of these people listed, please explain the importance of Solidarity and the power of collective bargaining.” I’m sure the term “explain” will be interpreted many different ways by the union brotherhoods – for some it probably includes baseball bats and bricks through windows.

Interestingly, the UAW has established a voluntary union in Chattanooga in an effort to maintain a presence before the Volkswagen workers who rejected their representation earlier this year. I’m certain that within time the Chattanooga Volkswagen employees who do not voluntarily join the union will see their names on a similar Scab Report hit list.

Another Established Labor Rule Bites the Dust

The law of whether successor employers violate the National Labor Relations Act when they do not hire a majority of the predecessor’s employees and do not recognize and bargain with the predecessor’s union has taken a turn for the worse. The law used to allow successor companies to forgo bargaining with the predecessor’s union if the successor could prove that bargaining would be futile; successor companies no longer have that luxury.

Pressroom Cleaners took over a Hartford, Connecticut janitorial service contract from Capitol Cleaning. Capitol Cleaning had a collective bargaining agreement with the Service Employees Union International (SEIU). Although Pressroom performed the same business at the same location, it refused to hire a majority of Capitol employees because of their union affiliation. This is a textbook example of an unlawful discriminatory act. However, then-current law permitted Pressroom to prove that it would never have agreed to the terms of the Capitol’s collective bargaining agreement. If successful, Pressroom’s penalty for not hiring a majority of Capitol’s employees and not recognizing the union would have been rather lenient. Unfortunately, the penalty is now much stiffer.

Succinctly, the Board now holds that “when a successor employer has violated Section 8(a)(5) and (1) by unilaterally changing 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. 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.”

Successor employers are no longer able to escape liability from paying compensation under the predecessor’s monetary terms from the time it takes over a business until it bargains to an agreement or impasse with the union. Since NLRB litigation can take years, the back pay owed by a successor could be substantial. In fact, Pressroom currently faces 3 years of liability. Companies that are considering acquiring the assets of a unionized company must consult with labor counsel to ensure it does not violate any of the successorship rules.

Plaza and Mall Owners Have Recourse Against Labor Unions Engaging in Disruptive Behavior

A labor union picketed and caused a ruckus outside an Urban Outfitters store located inside a shopping mall because Urban Outfitter hired a non-union construction company to make renovations at the store. Specifically, dozens of union members “started a disruptive protest by marching in a circle, yelling, chanting loudly in unison, blowing whistles, hitting and kicking the construction barricade, and hitting their picket signs against the mall’s railings, which created an intimidating and disquieting environment that interfered with the mall and its tenants’ normal operation of business.” Union members also made sexual gestures toward female mall patrons and moved their protest in front of other stores that played no part in the union’s dispute.

According to the mall, the union’s antics violated its rule for speech-related activities on its property requiring protestors to fill out an application in advance and to agree to stay within one of two designated common areas. The rules also bar protestors from making excess noise. The mall owner sued the union for trespass and nuisance under Section 303 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), which creates a cause of action against a labor organization that has engaged in a secondary boycott.

Fortunately for the mall owner – and owners of strip plazas alike – the court ruled that the mall did not seek “to prevent or punish labor conduct, but only conduct that violates the mall’s time, place, and manner rules. Thus, the suit was not, fundamentally, a labor case in the guise of an action in trespass; it was a trespass case complaining only incidentally, at most, about union conduct.” So, Section 303 did not preempt the case, and the state law claims survived.