Despite the utility and advantages, technological advances complicate employers’ and labor unions’ collective bargaining relationship. For example, to what extent must employers bargain with unions over the introduction of technology on the jobsite, especially where new technology performs bargaining unit work or monitors bargaining unit workers performance?
Employers generally have the right to make fundamental entrepreneurial changes to their business that relate to decisions that represent a “basic change” to the business. However, where an established business with a unionized workforce seeks only to change how it’s work is performed or by whom, the employer may have an obligation under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain with the union.
Employers should be careful before implementing new technology for another reason: Even absent a duty to bargain, a union may use disruptive tactics to try to discourage negative impacts on a bargaining unit, such as extensive information requests, engaging in informational picketing, hand billing, bannering, or intensify organizing activities.
Companies with unionized work forces should work closely with their experienced labor attorney to assess whether and to what extent bargaining is required over a decision to implement new technology, or the effects of the decision, and to develop an effective labor relations strategy.
Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.