Tag Archives: United Steelworkers

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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Breaking: NLRB petition for union filed by college football team

“Amateur” athletes seek union representation

Northwestern University
Northwestern University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an unprecedented move, a group of college football players at Northwestern University, led by their quarterback Kain Colter have filed a petition with the NLRB to form a union, according to a story reported on ESPN’s Outside the Lines:

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.

eKain Colter


“This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table,” said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001. “Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”

This promises to get all kinds of interesting since the amateur status of college athletes purports that they are not paid for playing.  Since unions typically represent workers regarding wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment, this threatens to break the NCAA model wide open.

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Day 3 in DC: What would Frances Perkins say about micro unions?

The Frances Perkins Building of the U.S. Depar...
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Random Department of Labor video

I spent the afternoon walking around Washington DC today.  I wound up in front of the Frances Perkins building, which is the home to the United States Department of Labor.    I looked around for picketers and protesters, but I didn’t see any.   I visited some museums, and shot some random video.

The video is pretty unimportant.   The story from Shopfloor on the possible creation of “micro unions” that you will find below the jump is important.   Go read it, and pay attention to what it says.

NLRB hears arguments on “micro unions”

From Shopfloor:

Arguments Pro and Con on NLRB’s Plan to Allow ‘Micro Unions’

The National Labor Relations Board has posted the amicus briefs submitted in response to the NLRB’s review of a case that the board could use to justify a radical change in labor policy, the authorization of “micro unions.” (See our posts immediately below here and here.)

The case is Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9. The National Association of Manufacturers is a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which submitted its amicus brief in alliance with the HR Policy Association.

To simplify the sides, employers and employer groups believe the NLRB is going too far in turning one specific labor dispute into a broader review of what legitimately constitutes a bargaining unit. Labor unions want a million units to bloom, allowing organizers to pick and choose small groups of employees whom they can more efficiently persuade and pressure into joining a union.

The employer’s brief: Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile

The union’s brief: United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC, i.e., USW

Amicus briefs from labor unions:

Amicus briefs from employer groups:

Submitting a letter were three Republican members of the Senate Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions Comittee: Senators Mike Enzi, Orrin Hatch, Johnny Isakson

P.S. We’ve knocked the NLRB for its foray into social media and Google advertising, inappropriate activities for a quasi-judicial agency. That said, the board and its staff have made excellent improvements to the board’s website, www.nlrb.gov, allowing relatively efficient researching of this case.

A suggestion: Instead of just posting with a single title that appears repeatedly, actually identify the party that submitted the brief in the title/link. Posting the name, “Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America,” is more informative than repeated entries of “Amicus Brief for 15-RC-008773.”

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Micro Unions: NLRB heading towards minority representation

PA: Lilly Ledbetter Visits Pittsburgh to Discu...
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How many union contracts are too many?

When the employees at a company are represented by a union, one of the objectives that management usually pursues is to get a satisfactory collective bargaining agreement in place that covers most of the employees under one agreement.  This is important for a number of reason, not the least of which is efficiency.  Having a single agreement covering the majority of appropriate employees is much more cost effective than several different agreements for many reasons.  Operating under one agreement minimizes the need to conduct multiple negotiations, ensures the consistency of work rules and operating procedures, and helps reduce the amount of administrative time that operating under multiple agreements can create.

Separate units with their own agreements are certainly appropriate in some organizations, like hospitals or correctional facilities, but these are exceptions.   It is also not uncommon to have separate units for units such as manufacturing operators  and skilled trades personnel.  If the NLRB has its way, we could soon see be seeing something called “micro unions” or minority representation become a trend in the United States.    In the worst case, a single restaurant could potentially face having separate labor contracts for cooks, wait staff, and other groups.   There could even be separate unions to deal with.  This would be be very burdensome and costly.   One likely outcome is that this would encourage businesses to seek amicable voluntary agreements with one union. covering a mutually agreed upon unit in an effort  to avoid the kind of situation I just described.  Another more foreboding possibility is that if the board gets this in place, Craig Becker may try to implement minority union representation next.  That would be where only a few members of a workforce unit choose to be represented by a union, even when a majority of their colleagues choose not to.  This is less likely tahn micro unions, but could be coming next!

You can learn more about this topic in this article from the The Daily Call.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the mediation agency charged with interpreting and maintaining the fairness of unionizing efforts nationwide, will soon decide whether or not labor unions will be allowed to break off different sections of workforces into small groups to organize five or 10 workers at a time instead of the whole workplace at once – or organize using “micro unions.”

The “micro unions” would essentially allow labor organizers to section off company employees by specific job descriptions. For example, if a union were trying to organize a restaurant staff, leaders would target servers, busboys, dishwashers, cooks and hostesses separately.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce labor specialist Glenn Spencer told The Daily Caller that this would make it much easier for unions to take control of workforces, piece by piece.

“They’d still need to win an election or prove that they had a majority through card-check, but what it would enable them to do is not have to worry about organizing, say 100 people, they could just go in and find five and have the appropriate job classification and say, ‘Well, this is all we want, right here,’” Spencer said. “Instead of having to win an election amongst 100 people, you only have to win an election amongst five.”

Current NLRB member Craig Becker, who was recess-appointed by President Barack Obama because he couldn’t get through a Senate confirmation and is currently re-nominated by Obama to the same spot, has advocated for this kind of micro union approach. Becker dissented from an NLRB decision last summer that determined it was too narrow for a union to try to organize just the poker dealers at a specific casino but not include dealers of other casino games. Becker wrote that, “the only question … is whether the proposed unit is an appropriate unit, not whether it is the most appropriate unit.”

In addition to micro-unionization efforts, Spencer said the other issue at play here is the NLRB is attempting to take a narrow decision affecting only the company, Specialty Healthcare, and the union trying to organize its nurses, United Steelworkers, and broaden it to affect the entire private sector, except for a couple specialized industries. Neither party in this case requested the NLRB do this with this case.

“The two parties in this case said they needed to resolve the size of this bargaining unit,” Spencer said. “The Board is saying, ‘Okay, and, while we’re at it, let’s go do all this other stuff, too.’”

Congressman Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, told TheDC that he’s prepared to fight against this. He chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee’s subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which had its first NLRB hearing last week. Roe said the NLRB has turned into an activism arm in favor of unions, rather than a mediation board that looked out for workers, as it was intended to be.

“This board is more activist now,” Roe said in a phone interview. “If you look at some of their rulings, or proposed rulings, and some of the briefs of what they’re talking about, and one the members was a recess-appointee who had an activist background as an SEIU and AFL-CIO lawyer, so that kind of tells you where he’s going to come down.”

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