Tag Archives: Trade union

Managers manage

Unions Administer the Contract

Management of Complexity
Management of Complexity (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

I had a discussion the other day that I haven’t had for quite a few years.  

It usually goes something like this:  “He’s a manager, but he says he can’t make his employees work because they tell him they have a union.”

This makes me crazy.  It’s not true, and it’s not that complicated. Manager’s direct the work as required by job descriptions,and classification assignment within the union contract. Employees perform the work as directed.

Rule #1 is managers keep their right to manage, even when a Collective Bargaining Agreement is in force.   You may have to follow certain rules, and you will likely face some limitations on what you can tell people to do, but you still keep the right to manage your business.

That’s why every collective bargaining agreement has a Management’s Rights clause that will include information like this, referenced below.

Management Rights clauses are contractual clauses found in union contracts that give management the ability to manage its business without interference from the union (except as agreed to).While not all inclusive, below is a listing of typical Management Rights found in union contracts giving management the right to:
  • Hire employees
  • Direct, control and assign employees work
  • To establish schedule and hours of work
  • Determine qualifications of employees
  • Discipline employees and terminate employees for cause
  • Expand and reduce the number of employees
  • Layoff
  • Recall from layoff
  • Establish and enforce rules of conduct
  • Consolidate, tranfer, or close its operations



The management of the Employer’s operations and the direction of its employees, including but not limited to the rights: to hire, classify, promote, transfer, lay-off, recall, discipline, discharge for just cause, suspend, direct, control, and determine the qualifications of employees; to maintain order and efficiency and to establish and enforce rules and regulations as well as absentee tardiness policies, safety standards, work loads, and schedules of production; to determine the location and extent of the Employer’s operations and their commencement, expansion, curtailment or discontinuance; to select, introduce, discontinue, eliminate or change equipment, machinery, processes or services; and to schedule and assign work to the employees, shall remain vested exclusively with the Employer.

The above are by way of example only of rights vested exclusively in the Employer and all rights which the Employer would have but for the existence of a collective bargaining agreement, including the rights to continue or discontinue any past practice or benefit, except as specifically modified by this Agreement, are vested in the Employer’s discretion.

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The Rhetoric of Union Elections

 Two sides to the union representation decision

The UAW loss of their union representation election at Volkswagen made national headlines a couple of weeks ago.  While these kind of elections are always contentious, and can cause serious disruption within an organization, the Chattanooga  election outcome has elicited criticism from organized labor about the “unprecedented” involvement of outside parties. The employees at Volkswagen even went so far as to create their own non-profit worker center named Southern Momentum as part of their effort to keep the UAW out of their facility. This is a very new thing in labor relations, and something we may see more of in the future. Lawyers for both sides are already busy filing arguments about the validity of such worker groups before the NLRB. Lawyers for Southern Momentum say these charges are an effort by the UAW to silence them because their efforts were effective during the recent election.

The Battle for Hearts and Minds

What seems to be lost in this dialogue is that it was really the votes of 712 VW employees who decided the outcome of the election.  A simple majority made their vices heard in a secret ballot election and said “No thanks” to the UAW. There are similar efforts going on at the plants of other auto manufacturing plants in the Southern United States.  These efforts are largely being driven around the idea that the UAW is working to create a new kind of labor union representation model in the United States, based on coöperation between the parties and a democratic approach to worker involvement in the plants by a Worker Council.  This is a traditional European model that is difficult to create under existing US labor law. There are always two sides in a fight over union representation, those who support  the union; and those who are against it.  Every union election is a battle for the hearts and minds of the undecided and the uncommitted, and the rhetoric you hear usually reflects that.  Here is what the campaign rhetoric looks like in the ongoing campaign at the Mercedes plant in Vance Alabama.

Welcome to UAW-MBUSI Organizing!

MBUSI Team Members have been in contact with United Auto Workers (UAW) organizers for several months. For some, contact goes back several years. While interest is steadily growing, it is certain that there are mixed feelings about organizing among Team Members at MBUSI: many support the idea, some oppose it, and a large number are undecided or simply don’t know what a union would mean for this plant.

Welcome to UAW-MBUSI Organizing!

Forming a union requires serious consideration and hard work. This site is intended to be a resource for MBUSI Team Members as they consider unionization. Of course, the best resources available are people—UAW Leadership Council members, organizers, and German colleagues from IG Metall & the Daimler Works Council—but we hope this site will help to supplement the process. Enjoy!

Here is some truth from the Team Member Information Committee as we know it:

  • We know the UAW is not here to help us, they are here to help themselves to a portion of our paychecks after they helped bankrupt the Detroit auto industry and helped themselves to a taxpayer bailout.


  • We know the German union IG Metall is not here to make a better life for us, they are here to make sure we do not get any more jobs in Alabama and to take the ones we do have away from us and back to Germany.
  • We know what west Alabama was like before MBUSI built the first M Class in 1997, and we know we do not want to go back there again.
  • We know that Alabama has been winning, and we know that Detroit, the UAW, and IG Metall has been losing – badly.


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Breaking: #NLRB posts new quickie election rules

The National Labor Relations Board Proposes Amendments to Improve Representation Case Procedures

See the entire 184 page proposal here.

Office of Public Affairs


February 5, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board announced today that it is issuing proposed amendments to its rules and regulations governing representation-case procedures.  In substance, the proposed amendments are identical to the representation procedure changes first proposed in June of 2011. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will appear in the Federal Register tomorrow.  The proposals are intended to enable the Board to more effectively administer the National Labor Relations Act.  Specifically, the NPRM presents a number of changes to the Board’s representation case procedures aimed at modernizing processes, enhancing transparency and eliminating unnecessary litigation and delay.  Issuance of the proposed rule was approved by Board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and Members Kent Y. Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer.  Board Members Philip A. Miscimarra and Harry I. Johnson III dissented.

In announcing the proposals, Pearce said:  “The Board is unanimous in its support for effective representation case procedures.  I am pleased that all Members share a commitment to constructive dialogue, and we all agree that important issues are involved in this proposed rulemaking. With a Senate-confirmed five-member Board, I feel it is important for the Board to fully consider public comment on these proposed amendments, along with the comments we previously received in 2011. These amendments would modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act.”

“I believe that the NPRM first proposed in June of 2011 continues to best frame the issues and raises the appropriate concerns for public comment,” Pearce said.  He stressed that the Board is reviewing the proposed changes with an open mind:  “No final decisions have been made.  We will review all of the comments filed in response to the original proposals, so the public will not have to duplicate its prior efforts in order to have those earlier comments considered.  Re-issuing the 2011 proposals is the most efficient and effective rulemaking process at this time.”

“Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers.  These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether non-union employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union,” Pearce said.  “We look forward to further exchanges of ideas to improve the processes in a way that will benefit workers, employers and all of the American people.”

The reforms the Board will propose would:

  • allow for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents;
  • ensure that employees, employers and unions receive and exchange timely information they need to understand and participate in the representation case process;
  • streamline pre- and post-election procedures to facilitate agreement and eliminate unnecessary litigation;
  • include telephone numbers and email addresses in voter lists to enable parties to the election to be able to communicate with voters using modern technology; and
  • consolidate all election-related appeals to the Board into a single post-election appeals process.

The previous NPRM was published on June 22, 2011.  After considering the input provided in response, the Board had announced on December 22, 2011 that it was going to implement a final rule adopting some of those proposed amendments and defer the remainder for further consideration.  That final rule was invalidated by a District Court ruling that it had been adopted without a validly constituted quorum.  The Board’s appeal of that ruling was dismissed, pursuant to a joint stipulation, on December 9, 2013.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed changes.  The deadline for comments is April 7, 2014.  Reply comments to the initial comments may be filed by April 14, 2014. Details on how to submit comments are set forth in the NPRM.  In addition, the Board will hold a public hearing during the week of April 7, at which members of the public may address the proposed amendments and make other suggestions for improving the Board’s representation case procedures.

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Dropping workplace tracks : this actually happens

Recording devices in the workplace

English: The Sony PCM-M10 sound recorder.
English: The Sony PCM-M10 sound recorder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This actually happened back around Halloween, but if you are a typical HR practitioner, stressed and overworked, you probably missed it.

Worked trying to organize a union in their workplace used cell phones and the SoundCloud app to record and post management conversations, spreading the files via social media.

Brennan W. Bolt of the Labor Relations Today blog did a great summary of the event, shared in part below:

In a public relations nightmare for a Georgia employer, Gawker.com published yesterday an article analyzing a 21-minute audio recording (and the recording itself) consisting primarily of a meeting between management and employees to discuss an upcoming union election and what the employees could expect in the next month leading up to the election.

This was Gawker’s lede:

When a union attempts to organize a workplace, the management inevitably tries to talk workers out of it. Usually, that happens out of the public eye. But at one workplace, an audio recorder was running

It is rare for a recording like this to surface, but that is likely to change given the proliferation of smart phones that make recording and publishing conversations and meetings such as this very easy. The article does not state how the recording was made, but presumably it was secretly made by an employee attending the meeting and, according to the article, was emailed to a list of labor journalists.

Sure, these are some union dudes, and you aren’t dealing with a union, so this is boring, right? Ask yourself this. Have you been surreptitiously recorded? Is one of your managers saying something stupid right now that is being digitally recorded and could go viral tomorrow?

This should be keeping HR people up at night.

You could also be doing something about it .

– use this example to create a case study and share it with your management team.

– review your policy on electronic devices in the work place and make sure it is up to date, and meets your organizational business .

– understand the law on recording.

– practice positive employee relations every day.

Want to be really radical?

Record meetings with your managers. Edit the files, create some dramatic content and play it back for them to create a very personal experience. (You should probably forewarn people you are going to record them in the near future. Recording without permission is illegal in some jurisdictions.)

You’ll freak people out, but simulated learning is always better than learning a real life lesson under duress.

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Hot for teacher (accountability)

Mediocre is not good enough

Teacher (Photo credits: www.myparkingsign.com)

Unions are frequently criticized as being organizations who waste time and resources defending bad actors in the workplace.  Based upon my personal experience, this is true more often than not.   Unions have a legally required duty to provide fair representation to all their members, but it is difficult to watch them defend bad actors over and over just because they “pay their dues”.

That’s what makes what’s this story about a teachers union in St. Louis so unusual.

Critics of tenure say it creates an untouchable class of teachers who can become an impediment to improving public schools.

But in St. Louis, that protection hasn’t been enough to spare several dozen teachers from losing their jobs.

Since 2010, more than 100 teachers have been removed from classrooms — through being fired, pushed to retire or resign — after they were deemed ineffective by their principals. Forty of those teachers had tenure, according to the district, a status designed to protect educators from arbitrary firings.

Though the removals constitute a small percentage of the 1,934 teachers districtwide, they mark a monumental shift in the St. Louis Public Schools, where decades of bad record keeping made firing tenured teachers nearly impossible. They also reflect a broader effort by school district officials to elevate the level of teaching in the city’s 72 public schools and five alternative education sites.

An unlikely partner in the process is the teachers union.

“Remember, this isn’t the union of our mothers,” said Ray Cummings, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 420.

Several times a week, Cummings accompanies Jeff Spiegel, a human resources director for the St. Louis district, to schools where they help principals document teacher performance. They meet with teachers who struggle with such skills as classroom management and connecting with students. Some are on the verge of burnout.

They put them on an improvement plan.

Read that again.

The school district HR guy and the union guy meet with under-performing teachers several times a week, and put them on an improvement plan.

Jointly.  Together.   That is unusual enough to make me say “holy sh*t! – a union that is partnering with management to fix organizational problems, rather than just blindly defending bad actors.  If you’ve never worked in a union shop, you may not truly appreciate just how unusual that is.   Any good union leader will eventually stop defending a loser, but it’s a big stretch politically and philosophically for a union leadership to assume the kind of proactive approach that this group is using.

Spiegel, the former superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant schools, came to St. Louis in 2011 to work solely on improving teaching in the district. Since his arrival, 340 teachers have received ratings on their evaluations poor enough to put them on professional improvement plans, according to the district. After 18 weeks, 181 of those teachers showed significant improvement. The rest, for the most part, were let go.

“You know what? Mediocre is not good enough,” Spiegel said. “We have to have high performing teachers in every classroom.”

Cummings agrees.

Rather than fighting the school district on this, he and other union leaders are in full support. In fact, union representatives make up five of the nine members of the administrative panel that has recommended the dismissal of tenured teachers to human resources.

“At one point, the union was just there to take care of salaries, benefits and to monitor the contract,” Cummings said. “Most members feel we should be raising the profession, making sure the working environment is such we can improve our craft.”

Go read the whole story. It’s worth the three minutes it will take, and then make sure your organization is working as hard to hold people accountable for performance as these guys are!

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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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Micro-Units Now a Reality under NLRB

Micro-Units Now a Reality:  2nd and 5th Floor Shoe Departments Ruled a Voting Unit.

I’m posting this press release from an email I received from OliverBell because this is an important development in labor relations.   I have posted on the topic of micro units before. Here is another perspective.

It is official!!  Micro-units do exist at least in Region 2 of the National Labor Relations Board.  Citing Specialty Healthcare (an August 2011 precedent setting decision authorizing micro-units), Region 2 Director Karen Fernbach signed the Decision and Direction of Election (Case No. 02-RC-076954) in early May authorizing an election of the 2nd floor Women’s Designer Shoe associates and the 5th floor Women’s s Contemporary Shoe Sales associates at the Bergdorf Goodman retail location in Manhattan.  There has been an eerie silence as neither the Board or unions have publicized this decision.

Specialty Healthcare, 357 NLRB No. 83 (Aug. 26, 2011) is a ruling that set over 40 years of labor law precedent on its head.  One of the historic precedents had been the Board’s 1957 decision in Bullock’s, Inc. d/b/a I. Magnin & Co., 119 NLRB No. 86 (1957) which states:

The Board has long regarded a storewide unit of all selling and nonselling employees as a basically appropriate unit in the retail industry… Smaller units of retail clothing store employees are appropriate when comprised of craft or professional employees or where departments composed of employees having a mutuality of interests not shared by other store employees are involved.  … the record herein fails to establish any craft or professional skills or status among the shoe salesmen and it does not show that the skills, duties, interests, and conditions of employment of those employees are sufficiently different from those of other employees to warrant their establishment in a separate unit on any other basis.

Regarding this NLRB decision, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) stated

Micro unions in any place of business cause discord and are a way to upset an organization that otherwise is not upset.  There is not a problem as far as unions being able to organize, but there is a huge problem in that the labor board continues to try to overturn decades’ worth of labor laws that have served us well in order to tip the scales in favor of labor unions.

So all past rules are out the window.  It remains to be seen how quickly other Regional Offices begin to issue similar decisions.  Should you expect expect the emergence of potential small units in your workplace?  Might a union approach and attempt to organize your company piecemeal?  Based on this decision, the answer is yes..

We encourage all employers to pay attention as the situation continues to develop.


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These new NLRB rules for elections start on April 30th

Explanation of NLRB Election Process Changes

These changes go into effect on April 30th, barring a possible last minute court decision.  There will be more information released by the NLRB later today.  This is big stuff if you get a petition for a union election. – Michael

 One of the NLRB’s primary responsibilities is to hold secret ballot elections so that employees can decide whether they wish to be represented by a labor union or, if already represented, to remove the union or replace it with another.
The Board recently voted [1] to change some election procedures in order to reduce unnecessary litigation, adopting parts of a broader proposal to modernize and streamline the election process. The changes, set to take effect on April 30, 2012, are described below.
1. Defining the Scope of the Pre-Election Hearing. Most parties to NLRB elections agree to the election terms. When they can’t agree, the NLRB conducts a pre-election hearing to determine whether an election should be held.  This amendment alters Section 102.64 of the Rules to explicitly state that the purpose of the hearing is to determine whether a question of representation exists, and amends Section 102.66(a) to give the hearing officer the discretion to limit the hearing to relevant matters. Currently, questions concerning a small number of employees may be litigated at great length and expense despite having no effect on the final result, because the disputed individuals’ eligibility to vote only becomes an issue if their votes would have made a difference in the final outcome of the election.

2.  Limiting Post-Hearing Briefs. The second amendment alters Section 102.66(d) of the Rules to give hearing officers the discretion to control the filing, subject matter, and timing of any post-hearing briefs. This amendment was adopted because most cases involve only routine issues based on well-known principles of NLRA law. Briefing adds little to the decision-making process, but introduces further delay and adds significantly to the parties’ litigation expenses.
3.  Consolidating Pre- and Post-Election Appeals. The third amendment alters Sections 102.67 and 102.69 to eliminate the need to file multiple appeals. Currently, parties must file one appeal to seek Board review of pre-election issues and a separate appeal to seek Board review of post-election issues, such as challenges to voter eligibility and objections to a party’s conduct during the course of the election. This amendment consolidates the two appeals into a single post-election procedure, which saves the parties from having to file and brief appeals that may become moot based on the outcome of the election. This change also conforms NLRB procedures with the ordinary rules found in both state and federal courts which limit interlocutory appeals.

4.  Eliminating the 25-Day Waiting Period. The fourth amendment follows directly from the third by removing the 25-day waiting period after a regional director’s pre-election decision issues. Under the current rules, Section 101.21(d) recommends that the regional director refrain from setting an election date sooner than 25 days after ordering an election to allow the Board sufficient time to consider any requests for review. Because the new rules eliminate pre-election appeals, the waiting period no longer serves any purpose.
5.  Establishing a Standard for Interlocutory Appeals. The fifth amendment also takes aim at the problem of multiple appeals to the Board in a single case . The current rules fail to establish any standard for the filing of interlocutory appeals concerning individual rulings by hearing officers or regional directors during the course of a pre-election hearing. As a result, parties may, and have, filed numerous appeals in a single case regarding discrete rulings as to what evidence may, or may not, be permitted. By altering Section 102.65(c), the new rules make clear that the Board will grant such interlocutory appeals only under “extraordinary circumstances where it appears that the issue will otherwise evade review.”

6.  Establishing Standards for Post-Election Procedures. The amendment to Sections 102.62(b) and 102.69 codifies a long-established practice in which regional directors decide challenges and objections to elections through an investigation without a hearing when there are no substantial or material factual issues in dispute. The amendment also makes Board review of the regional directors’ decisions discretionary. This change will require parties to identify significant prejudicial error by the regional director or some other compelling reason for Board review, allowing the Board to devote its limited time to cases where its review is warranted.
In its original notice of proposed rulemaking, the NLRB proposed many other amendments as part of a broader modernization of the election process. These amendments, among other things, would have standardized deadlines across the country and allowed for the electronic filing of petitions. The Board set those portions of the proposal aside for possible future consideration.

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Labor Relations: The Rules Have Changed | BusinessWest

In Collective Bargaining, Employers Have to Watch What They Say

This article by Frederick sullivan is one of the most timely and interesting pieces on the mechanics of collective bargaining language that I have seen in a long time.  Now more than ever, labor relations practitioners have to think not only about what they say, but how they say it.    Between the advent of social media, and the new Obama labor board, labor relations expertise is rapidly moving from old school to the bleeding edge of human resources.   Are you keeping up? – MVD

Source: BusinessWest


The general council for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued guidelines to the agency’s regional offices on prosecuting unfair labor practice charges against employers that refuse to give information to unions during collective bargaining.
Generally, under existing labor law, a union is entitled to information about the bargaining unit employees’ terms and conditions of employment. But when the requested information involves matters outside the bargaining unit, the union bears the burden of showing the relevance of the requested information to the union’s bargaining responsibilities for its unit members.
Additionally, an employer’s statements or proposals during actual negotiations may make financial or other specific and limited information relevant to negotiations — and, thus, information that the union is entitled to request and to receive. For example, employer statements of an ‘inability to pay’ or ‘cannot afford’ will trigger an obligation to provide financial information if the union requests it.
The general counsel stated that there are no magic words required to create the employer’s obligation to provide financial information. Whenever the employer’s statements and action convey an inability to pay, the obligation is established. Thus, claims of economic hardship, business losses, prospect of layoffs, a matter of survival, or a comment such as, “acceptance of the offer would enable the company to retain your jobs and get back in the black,” in the context of the particular bargaining, have been found to amount to a claim of inability to pay that gives rise to an obligation to provide requested financial information.
The general counsel told NLRB regional directors to distinguish between general claims of inability to pay that give rise to financial information obligations and other, more limited employer claims that can be the subject of a union’s demand for verification. Besides inability statements, an employer may make a statement during bargaining that, according to the NLRB, will give rise to an obligation to provide the union with specific requested information.
For example, when an employer claimed a need to be more competitive, the NLRB ordered the employer to provide the union with competitor data, labor costs, and other information relevant to the claim. General counsel said a union is entitled to information tailored to what allows the union to evaluate specific employer assertions made during bargaining.
General counsel instructed the NLRB regions to analytically distinguish between inability to pay and an employer’s obligation to provide information in response to a specific claim by the employer made during negotiations, e.g., an inability to compete.
This year the NLRB ruled that a union is entitled to specific information regarding an employer’s job-bidding practices because the employer had contended in bargaining that its wages and benefits affected the employer’s ability to get and receive job bids. The NLRB ruled that a union is entitled to information that supports or disproves an employer’s representation.
The general counsel is advising the NLRB’s regional offices to pay close attention to an employer’s words used to support the employer’s bargaining position or used as reasons to reject a union’s proposal. The NLRB is entertaining demands that an employer verify whatever it communicates to the union as the reason for the employer’s position.
Employers need to be very deliberate in how they articulate reasons for their bargaining positions. Loose, unthinking statements can be seized upon by a union to demand all sorts of data and information from the employer. Before using references to costs, competition, etc., the employer should determine if it has data to support its claim and whether it will be willing to provide the information to the union. The current NLRB is moving employers toward a position of having to verify statements that in the past may have been considered part of the bargaining banter.
Now, much more than before, with the current NLRB administration, an employer has to develop a plan for each position that it takes on each proposal and counterproposal. Plus, an employer has to calculate how it will describe its positions and how it will respond, in detail, to union questions about the employer’s reasons so as to avoid giving rise to unintended information obligations. The general counsel’s emphasis on this topic and instructions to the NLRB regional offices constitute a move toward greater power in bargaining for union representatives.

Frederick Sullivan is a founding partner with the Springfield-based firm Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn, which represents employers in labor and employment-law matters; (413) 736-4538.

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From my Reader: good labor reads

Logo of Ikea. Drawn by Mysid on a PNG original...
Image via Wikipedia

Stuff I have been reading about this week:

No content, and no commentary.  Just a list of stuff I have been reading this week…mostly labor relations.

Ikea furniture workers win union drive, with international help

Twitter bombing the boss could become the norm

Labor unions unhappy with Obama slogan “it could have been worse.”

Why unions matter: the numbers

HR Florida  Social Tech Team Profile: Franny Oxford

Public unions start trying to collect dues directly from members as automatic collection ends

Unions continue push to organize telecom industry

Collision Course?  Foreign auto head says UAW will go after Ford


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