Tag Archives: NLRB

Employer agrees to rescind social media policy

On April 7, 2014, Valero Services, Inc. agreed to rescind its nationwide social media policy and to post and mail a NLRB remedial notice to its employees throughout the country in response to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Valero Services provides employee leasing services to refineries and plants located throughout the United States, including a refinery located in Port Arthur, Texas.

The United Steelworkers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB Region 16, alleging that Valero Services social media policy interfered with employees’ rights to discuss their terms and conditions of employment on social media. Region 16 found merit to the allegations and issued complaint. During the hearing, Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge William N. Cates approved a settlement agreement resolving the dispute. Under the terms of the settlement, Valero Services agreed to notify employees that it will rescind its unlawful social media policy and to post NLRB notices at its 52 facilities nationwide, as well as to mail notices to employees, advising them that they will not be prohibited from using social media to discuss their terms and conditions of employment.

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Colorful post, colorful title: How do you do it?

Blue Ridge Mountain respite

Good morning from the cold yet gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. I’m working out of my mountain house for a couple of days before hitting the road for business for most of the next two weeks. I like to think of this as “taking the better with the good.” I’m having a Venti Starbucks dark French Roast and a sausage biscuit. What are you having for breakfast?

Business seeing red over proposed NLRB rule changes

Good analysis in this article covering proposed NLRB election rule changes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The rule change is opposed by corporate lawyer organizations and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has organized its own “Workforce Freedom Initiative.”

In a statement about the issue, the chamber said the new rule allows unions to quietly go about organizing employees without informing employers of the effort, then spring the election on employers.

“Cutting short the election period favors unions by limiting employers’ free speech rights and preventing workers from hearing both sides of the story,” the chamber’s statement reads. “Under the new rule, employers will then have a very limited window to discuss unionizing.”

Greenfield North Carolina store for Publix

Most of you know I rarely write about my employer, Publix Super Markets. Frankly, I wish I could write about the good stuff we do more often, but I can’t. I was a blogger before I started working for them, and when they hired, we made an informal agreement that I would keep blogging, but I wouldn’t write about Publix very often, and especially as it relates to business and HR strategy.

I’m breaking that a little bit today for a very good reason. I want to share a little bit of personal/professional pride with you. As we say at Publix, today I’m bleeding green.

On February 26, 2014, Publix reached a huge milestone. We opened our first new store in the state of North Carolina, when we opened the doors of store #1442 in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte. We open new stores all the time, but we rarely move into a new state, so this was a huge deal for us. There was huge anticipation from Publix customers, who have been begging us to open stores in North Carolina for years.

The grand opening was a smashing success. There was a live tv broadcast. We had many visiting VIP guests at the store, and at the media event on the preceding day. We had visits from many executives from competing grocers. Customers thronged to the store all day. We even had a clown.

That’s not what interested me though. As usual, I was interested in the people. I spent the day walking the floor at the store, or out in the parking lot recovering carts. It provided plenty of time to chat with customers, our associates, and even the SVP HR of a retail competitor who visited the store. I’ll put some of the bigger conversation into another blog tomorrow, but here was the gist of what I heard.

Customers: “I’ve missed the friendly Publix people so much since I left Florida/Georgia/Tennessee. I couldn’t wait to get back to one of your stores near where I live. I’m so excited! Your employees are just as friendly and cheerful as I remember. How do you do it?”

Associates from a blended staff of experienced transfers and new hires: ” I’m so blessed to get the opportunity to work for a company like Publix, and to transfer back to my home, and open such a great new store! I’m from Miami, but my husband and I always wanted to live in the mountains, and now here we are. My four weeks with Publix have been the best work experience I’ve ever had; even the training was fun. I don’t know they did it, but they made opening this store fun.”

Think about the end of each of those sections:

“How do you do it?”
“I don’t know how they did it..”

I’m about to reveal huge proprietary secrets. You should take note. I don’t do this every day. The secret is….

Wait. I’m wrong. Actually, I do use the secret I am about to reveal. I use it every day. So does every Publix manager.

Here it is:

1. Credibility. I say what I mean, and I do what I say.
2. Opportunity. We provide jobs with the chance to grow and develop, just like in Charlotte.
3. Recognition. We reward good performance in a variety of ways.
4. Ownership. Every Publix employee has a chance to become a shareholder. We have skin in the game, and a regard for mutual interests. What I do, or fail to do affects my fellow owners. They are not just my co-workers.

There’s more, but I can’t give away ALL the secret sauce.

That’s how we do it at Publix.

Detroit Free Press: “Devastating loss for UAW”

The UAW suffered a devastating defeat at Volkswagen’s plant here as workers rejected union representation by a 712-626 margin.

Very interesting discussion on Twitter among labor side twitterati. Some saying the death of organizing in the South. Others saying this is an inspiring reason to rally and build the movement. Most comments seem to agree that the major reason that the UAW lost the election was two-fold

1) Many workers were aware and considered the past history of the UAW in Detroit and determined they didn’t want that same thing to happen in Chattanooga. They didn’t like the UAW. One writer reports that VW workers who voted against the UAW indicated to him that they would consider voting in favor of another union.

2) The UAW lost the election despite having a neutrality agreement. Some traditional labor organizers are criticizing UAW leadership for missteps, saying they weren’t aggressive enough about campaigning against VW and that they don’t know how to organize anymore.

Very interesting stuff for us labor geeks.

See full link here

Labor Relations Round ’em up, head ’em out…Rawhide! #NLRB

Labor Relations Roundup

Chicago (Photo credits: www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

I’ve been on a roll with NLRB posts this week, so it makes sense to finish up a few more tidbits from the wonderful wacky world of the National Labor Relations Board.

Voting at Volkswagon ends tonight

We’ll know late tonight whether or not the UAW has finally achieved their long cherished objective to organize an automotive plant located in a southern state here in the US.  At least, we’ll know the outcome of act one, the legal curtain won’t drop on this one for a long time.  Polls close at 8:30 PM. stay tuned.

NLRB hearing begins in NU football players’ quest for union

Then there’s the football union thing…

The Chicago Sun-Time reports that the NLRB conducted a hearing regarding the effort by student athletes at Northwestern University seeking to organize a union to represent their interests as football players for the school.  The hearing was held at the NLRB’s Chicago office.

An attorney representing the College Athletes Players Association, which the Wildcats players started, said CAPA is not alleging that Northwestern University has violated NCAA rules.

Instead, he said CAPA intends to “demolish the myth” created by the NCAA that student-athletes — who receive scholarships, bring in “billions of dollars of revenue” to their schools and spend more than 40 hours a week in their sports training and activities — are not employees.

Northwestern University’s attorney, Alex V. Barbour, argued that the players are students first and foremost and that their scholarships provide an educational experience. He cited a 2004 NLRB case in which graduate-student teachers at Brown University were deemed to have no right to unionize.

NLRB Says Union Not Responsible For Member Facebook Posts

and there’s another NLRB Facebook thing in which the Board says it’s ok to call your fellow union members “scabs”.  The Board  ruled that it would not require a union local to take down negative Facebook comments on a union Facebook in which some workers directed negative comments towards co-workers who crossed a picket line during a strike.


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Hot stove: Walmart and NLRB step up to plate for big swing

 Three strikes and you’re out

Walmart Clock
Walmart Clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Labor Relations Board released a consolidated charge against Walmart last week that many labor relations professionals view as a key test in the on-going struggle over labor rights in the United States.

The Board charges that Walmart committed labor violations when it disciplined employees that participated in one day strikes organized by a union backed worker center.  According to the NLRB, the alleged violations as reported by Wall Street Cheatsheet include:

  • “During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests on November 22, 2012.
  • Walmart stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.
  • Walmart stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.”

Walmart has denied any wrongdoing, and plans to fight the charges.

The key issue in question in this case is the legal status of a series of sporadic one day labor strikes, walkouts, flash mobs and similar protest activities that the group OURWalmart has organized and conducted at Walmart stores across the county for the past 18 months.  Traditional labor strikes have lasted longer, and end when a contract settlement has been reached.

Labor attorneys for Walmart charge that the NLRB is trying to use this case to expand the traditional concept of protected strike activity.


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NLRB decides not to seek appeal on workplace notice posting rule

NLRB sends out press release on employee right to join or not join a union

This press release from the NLRB details their reasoning for not filing an appeal on a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that invalidated their proposed rule requiring most private sector employers in the United States to post a notice about employee rights to unionize.  The rule was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups for being too one sided regarding the right to unionize, when the National Labor Relations Act clearly states that employees have a right to choose to be represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining, or to choose not to be represented.

The press release actually does a pretty good job of making that crucial distinction clear.  You can view the complete press release online here.

The NLRB’s Notice Posting Rule

January 6, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has decided not to seek Supreme Court review of two U.S. Court of Appeals decisions invalidating the NLRB’s Notice Posting Rule, which would have required most private sector employers to post a notice of employee rights in the workplace.

The NLRB remains committed to ensuring that workers, businesses and labor organizations are informed of their rights and obligations under the National Labor Relations Act. Therefore, the NLRB will continue its national outreach program to educate the American public about the statute.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stated: “[I]t is also without question that the Board is free to post the same message [that is on the poster at issue] on its website.” The workplace poster remains available on the NLRB website. It may be viewed, displayed and disseminated voluntarily. In addition, the NLRB has established a free NLRB mobile app for iPhone and Android users to provide the public with information about the National Labor Relations Act.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, most private sector employees have the right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with employers concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract setting wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with co-workers or a union.
  • Engage in protected concerted activities with one or more co-workers to improve wages, benefits and other working conditions.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.


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Labor Relations Round-up, CliffsNotes style #NLRB

English: Mark Gaston Pearce. Mr. Pearce was a ...
Mark Gaston Pearce.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Too busy for blogging

I am seemingly swamped for the rest of the year, so I just don’t blog anymore.  Every once in a while I get the itch, like a bad rash, but then it goes away.  I’m not sure this is a good thing, because I actually have more clarity about my daily work when I am blogging regularly. It’s one of many benefits of blogging that I am not taking advantage of right now.   To remedy this, I’m going to try an experiment.

I’m going to try brevity posts.   Typically, I’m starting with labor relations. Here’s a couple of big stories.

The NLRB is back in business, operating with a full slate of five members for the first time in a decade.  Think about just how f*cked up our political system must be for a governmental agency to go for a decade without a full complement.   Yay beer!  I mean, there has to be some justifiable reason for that, right?   Red Stripe is just as good an excuse as any other I can think of.  By the way, the new Board is not going to be a friend of HR, or business.

If you were in the restaurant business, you better buckle up.  All indications are that the string of one day strikes aimed at the fast food industry are about to expand massively, according to an interview with a union president behind the effort.

We’ll cap off this post with a dress code story about baseball caps at work from Lexology. 

An employer’s policy prohibiting employees from wearing baseball caps other than the employer’s is an unlawful restriction on employees’ Section 7 activity, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge has decided.  Quad Graphics, Inc., 32-CA-062242 (July 31, 2013).



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Labor Relations 101: What is protected concerted activity?

English: Workers and their supporters rallied ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is protected concerted activity? 

Protected concerted activity is a very popular search topic on the blog.  HR practitioners are looking this up more and more, so here is the precise definition of what consitiutes protected concerted activity, straight off the NLRB website.

Is the activity concerted?

Generally, this requires two or more employees acting together to improve wages or working conditions, but the action of a single employee may be considered concerted if he or she involves co-workers before acting, or acts on behalf of others.

Does it seek to benefit other employees?

Will the improvements sought – whether in pay, hours, safety, workload, or other terms of employment – benefit more than just the employee taking action?  Or is the action more along the lines of a personal gripe, which is not protected?

Is it carried out in a way that causes it to lose protection?

Reckless or malicious behavior, such as sabotaging equipment, threatening violence, spreading lies about a product, or revealing trade secrets, may cause concerted activity to lose its protection

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Federal appeals court strikes down proposed NLRB union notification requirement

NLRB posting requirement for employers struck down, termed government compelled speech

Fairly important ruling over the proposed NLRB employer posting requirements, citing concerns over freedom of speech, and calling the NLRB proposal “government compelled speech”.   The streak continues. 

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court here struck down Tuesday a rule that would have required more than 6 million private employers to post notices telling workers of their right to join a union.

The decision is the latest setback for unions and the Obama administration at the hands of the conservative-leaning appeals court in Washington.

When President Obama took office, union leaders hoped that a reenergized National Labor Relations Board could stop or reverse the long decline in union membership. Only about 7% of private workers in the U.S. belong to unions.

Two years ago the board adopted a rule requiring employers to post a “notification of employee rights” in their workplaces. The one-page form was to include the basic rights protected by federal labor law, including the right to join a union and to go on strike.

But the National Assn. of Manufacturers (NAM) and several anti-union groups went to court to challenge the rule before it could take effect.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the rule on the grounds that the NLRB had overstepped its authority under law. Judge Raymond Randolph described the rule as government “compelled speech.”

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Piggly Wiggly vs. NLRB

NLRB case settles with $570,000 backpay    

Piggly Wiggly logo
Piggly Wiggly logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 More evidence in my continuing quixotic effort to prove that the NLRB is an agency with teeth, and that HR peeps should pay attention to what they are doing.

Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in Wisconsin agree to settle numerous NLRB cases and keep Sheboygan store open

From the NLRB:

In a series of settlements with the NLRB, a Wisconsin supermarket chain has agreed to solve all outstanding cases with the agency by signing collective bargaining agreements with the union representing its employees, reinstating discharged workers, providing about 500 employees a total of more than $570,000 in backpay, and keeping open a store that had been slated for closure.

The settlements signed by Piggly Wiggly Midwest, LLC, based in Sheboygan, resolve cases involving six stores that began in 2009 and were in various stages of litigation. As a result, the parties agreed to seek dismissal of a case pending in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Piggly Wiggly agreed to drop its opposition to the enforcement of a Board order in another case.  A third set of cases scheduled for trial were resolved by a formal agreement that requires approval by the Board in Washington.  A fourth set of cases still under investigation were withdrawn.

The employees, represented by UFCW Local 1473, agreed to accept a reduced amount in bargaining-related backpay to facilitate the employer’s agreement to keep the Sheboygan store open.

The outcome was made possible by the hard work of NLRB Region 30 field examiner Amanda Bahnson, attorneys Angela Jaenke, Renée Medved and Andrew Gollin, Compliance Officer Richard Neuman, and Deputy Regional Attorney Percy Courseault, and by the diligence and good will of UFCW Local 1473 president John Eiden and Piggly Wiggly Midwest owner Paul Butera.

Charges against the employer included bad faith bargaining, making unilateral changes to wages and working conditions, unlawful discharges, and an unlawful attempt to promote a decertification petition. In May, the NLRB Regional Office in Milwaukee obtained a federal court injunction [4]ordering the Sheboygan supermarket to restore full-time status and health insurance to employees whose hours were reduced to part-time without bargaining.

The settlements were reached by the parties on August 31; the formal agreement is pending approval by the Board.

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