Breaking Up (with a Union) Is Hard to Do

Companies are often eager to withdraw recognition of a union without realizing that severing a union relationship is easier said than done. One company recently learned this lesson the hard way when it obtained signed statements from 8 of the 15 bargaining unit members purportedly showing that the employees wanted to end union representation. The company moved forward with withdrawing its recognition of the union only to receive an unfair labor practice charge from the Teamsters. The charge alleged that the company unlawfully withdrew recognition of the union.

The Board found that the eight statements the company relied on were not up to muster. The Administrative Law Judge who initially heard this case found that four of the statements indicated that the employees did not want to be union members, not that they wanted to end union representation of their bargaining unit. The statements stated that the employees wanted to “resign” from the union, “get out” of the union, and “not wish to be a union member.” The ALJ concluded that the company failed to show that the eight statements unambiguously indicated a lack of support for the union as a bargaining representative. Accordingly, the company violated the National Labor Relations Act when it withdrew recognition. Talk about splitting hairs!

The possibility of withdrawing union recognition is an exciting time for a company. Companies need to be sure that they approach this process with an understanding that recognition must be withdrawn carefully to avoid an unfair labor practice charge and the Board ordering the company to continue recognizing the union. While withdrawing recognition is lawful, the process is riddled with legalities, so consulting an experienced labor attorney before withdrawal is highly recommended.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at