Micro Units, the Next Obama-Era Rule to Die

In PCC Structurals, Inc., the Board reinstated the traditional community of interest standard to be used when determining whether unions have included all necessary employees on a petition for union representation. The Board’s reversal is a welcomed relief to employers who have been forced to bargain with several small units of employees in one workplace, thereby preventing all employees at a worksite from exercising their rights to vote on union representation.

In Specialty Healthcare, the Board did away with over 20 years of established precedent by changing the test used in determining whether a petitioned-for unit of employees to vote for union representation was the most appropriate unit within the employer’s workforce. Unions typically craft the petition to contain the smallest possible group to vote that has already showed their support for representation, while employers typically wish to expand the unit of voting employees to get a more accurate representation of what all employees in the workplace want in terms of union representation.

In PCC Structurals, the Board reinstated the traditional community of interest analysis to determine whether employees in the petitioned-for unit share a community of interest with excluded employees. There, the IAM sought to unionize a micro-unit of approximately 100 welding employees despite belonging to a larger group of over 2,000 production workers. The welding employees worked closely with other production workers and shared several terms and conditions of employment, such as similar schedules, shared supervisors, constant contact, same benefits, same training, and wearing the same protective equipment while working throughout the manufacturing process.

In applying the Specialty Healthcare analysis, the Regional Director determined that the excluded production workers did not share an “overwhelming community of interest” with the micro-unit of welding employees.

Under PCC Structurals, the Board unequivocally reinstated the more simplified and practical analysis used for decades before Specialty Healthcare, examining factors like:

  • Whether the exclude employees and petitioned for unit of employees are organized into a separate department;
  • Have distinct skills and training;
  • Have distinct job functions and perform distinct work, including inquiry into the amount and type of job overlap between job classifications;
  • Are functionally integrated with Employer’s other employees;
  • Have frequent contact and interchange with other employees;
  • Have distinct terms and conditions of employment;
  • And are separately supervised.

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.

Fight for $15 Workers Finally Join a Union, But Not the One Paying their Salaries

Employees of the labor-backed social justice campaign Fight for $15 have joined a union themselves. The organizers joined the United Media Guild via card check. Comically, a majority of workers signed authorization cards desiring union representation. I’m left wondering why all workers did not sign cards. Apparently even when you work for a union, you don’t want to be in a union.

No time is set to begin bargaining.

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.

Vox media is the latest online news and entertainment company where employees are looking to unionize. Several hundred employees across Vox’s eight sites are looking to join the Writers Guild of America, East. The company owns and operates offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, New York City, and Austin, Texas.

The organizing committee said the employees want management to increase transparency and communication and to promote workplace diversity.

This announcement comes a month after workers at the Los Angeles Times announced they are looking to join the NewsGuild. Other recently organized media groups that we covered can be found here.

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.

Company Threats of Closure or Drug Testing Hands Union Organizing Victory without Election

Employees testified that immediately after the UE local filed an election petition with the NLRB supervisors at MTIL, Inc., the Company made comments to employees that the employer, which sanitizes plastic packing crates for another company, might close or relocate its plant if the union was elected. The NLRB also received testimony that supervisors told workers that MTIL might begin a drug testing program if the union was elected to represent the employee.

Threats of closure during a union organizing are unlawful. Actually closing is lawful, but threatening to do so is not. The threat to drug test is a little more grey to me. Drug testing may in fact be part of a yet-to-be-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. So the Company didn’t lie. But if the employee interpreted the comment as a threat (assuming that some employees would fail a drug test), then was unlawful.

This case is a perfect reminder of the thin line employers must walk when battling a union organizing campaign.

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.

Congressional Dems’ Play on Words: Offer Unions a “Better Deal”

Congressional Democrats recently unveiled their “better deal” economic plan seeking to enhance protections for unions and their members. The “better deal” is the Democrat talking points for the mid-term elections during the fall of 2018. “Should we get the majority, this will be at the top of our list in early January 2019” said Senator Schumer.

First, the “better deal” seeks to ban state right to work laws. That should be enough for every business owner to vote Republican next year.

Second, it proposes mandatory mediation to ensure businesses and newly formed unions reach a first contract and a ban on “coercive captive audience meetings” – union lingo for employer-sponsored information sessions where companies educate workers about all facets of being in a union.

The release of the “better deal” comes shortly after the powerful AFL-CIO put politicians on notice that the AFL-CIO’s support will not be won without an agenda that includes a focus on workers’ rights. The AFL-CIO said in its constitutional convention that unions will not support politicians – no matter their party – if they don’t plan legislation that works in favor of workers.

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.

“A LOT OF GOOD REASONS TO JOIN THE TEAMSTERS” – MORE PROPAGANDA THAN PROOF

The Teamsters gathered in Detroit, Michigan to discuss how to educate workers about the value of their union membership. Detroit is home of the United Autoworkers union. Michigan is a Right to Work state. This was not a joint meeting or phony public relations stunt, either, which made choosing Detroit even more odd. No other city is so attached to one union than Detroit is attached to the UAW.

That didn’t stop Teamster leadership from standing up and proclaiming “Michigan is a union state, and it is a Teamster state.” Michigan is not a union state. It became a a Right to Work state a few years ago and union member has steadily declined ever since. Nor is Michigan a Teamster state. It is a UAW state. The UAW has its headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The UAW, with hundreds of thousands of workers in Michigan dwarfs the number of Teamsters in the state.

The Teamster propaganda continued when it cited a recent Gallup poll and said, “There are a lot of good reasons to join a union like the Teamsters, and the American public is increasingly recognizing it. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll found that 61% of those polled approved of unions, the highest level since 2003.”

Support for unions has only once been below 50% (2009), so the “increase” to 61% is not that great of a feat. In fact, according to Gallup: “approval remained in the 60% range throughout the 2000s right up to the election of Barack Obama as president. After plummeting in 2009, union approval remained lower than in its heyday but began climbing.” It makes you wonder, if more than 50% of Americans consistently approve of unions, why are only 7% of non-government employees in unions?

Noticeably absent from the rally were references to the Teamsters’ Central State Pension Fund which is woefully underfunded and whose members – Teamsters who paid into the fund throughout their careers – will receive dramatic reductions in pension payments.

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.

Fight for $15 Lowers Misses Goals, Lowers Expectations

Five years ago, when 200 New York City fast food workers first walked off the job for $15 an our and union rights, nobody gave us a shot. Since then, we’ve spread this movement to every corner of the country and beyond fast food,” said Steven Suffridge, a Fight for $15 organizer.

Target recently announced that it plans to raise the company-wide minimum hourly wage to $11 by next month and $15 by 2020. Suffridge continues, “We did what they said we couldn’t: we won. We won in the states, in the cities, with the big politicians, and with the big corporations.”

As a capitalist, I am all for someone getting paid as much as the market allows. Maybe $15 minimum wage is right. Maybe it isn’t. What I find interesting is how Fight for $15 takes credit for Target raising its starting wage to $15 nearly 10 years after the Fight for $15 campaign started. With normal adjustments for inflation, is $15 per hour in 2020 really a victory? Shouldn’t it be Fight for $20 in 2020?

As a management-side labor lawyer, I’m continually confounded how Fight for $15 celebrates achieving half of its goal. The other half – the increase the number of dues-paying union members – has failed miserably. Barely anyone in the fast food industry has joined a union since Fight for $15 launched.

So what we’re left with after peeling back this onion is:

  1. A union-funded worker center patting itself on the back because a company will raise its starting minimum wage to a level below the intent of Fight for $15 and
  2. No additional dues-paying members to offset the dues money being funneled into Fight for $15.

This is called diminished returned on lowered expectations. Not a successful, sustainable business model.

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.