As many of you may have heard and as we discussed in our August E-Update, last week in The Trustemortar-board-2-1551255es of Columbia University in the City of New York, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a twelve-year precedent in holding that student teaching and research assistants at private universities are statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act and can therefore unionize.

There has been a flurry of employee-friendly decisions issued by the Labor Board in recent weeks to coincide with – not surprisingly – the conclusion of Member Hirozawa’s three-year term on August 27, 2016. This case, however, irks me more than most.  The Majority stated that preventing graduate assistants the right to unionize “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the [NLRA] without a convincing jurisdiction” because, according to the Majority, “even when such an economic component may seem comparatively slight, relative to other aspects of the relationship between worker and employer, the payment of compensation, in conjunction with the employer’s control, suffices to establish an employment relationship for purposes of the Act.” And yet, in 2004, the Labor Board reached a contrary conclusion – that graduate assistants are not statutory employees who have the right to unionize, because the Labor Board acknowledged that graduate assistants have a primarily academic, not economic, relationship with their universities.  So what’s changed? That is a rhetorical question.  Obviously, nothing has changed, but the make-up of the Labor Board and its current desire to expand the reach of the Act.
Continue Reading The NLRB Changes Its Mind Again

U-Turn-SignIn another blow to management, on July 11, 2016, a divided National Labor Relations Board issued Miller & Anderson, in which it reversed course after more than a decade to return to the rule established in the 2000 case of M.B. Sturgis, Inc., whereby employees supplied by a staffing agency can be included in a single bargaining unit — and vote in an NLRB representation election — with an employer’s regular employees without the consent of both employers.

In 2004, M.B. Sturgis was itself reversed by Oakwood Care Center, in which the Board held that a union could organize a bargaining unit consisting of an employer’s regular employees and employees supplied by a staffing agency only if both the employer and the staffing agency consented to a combined secret ballot election.

Continue Reading NLRB Eases Unionization of Employees Referred by Staffing Agencies

Imagine this: Your cobook 2mpany has policies in your employee handbook determined to be unlawful by the NLRB.  Then, you and the NLRB engage in a line-by-line revision of the policies to ensure compliance with Board law and thereafter you issue a new handbook, with policies approved by the Board, to your employees.  Everything is ok, right? Wrong!  This is exactly what occurred in Boch Imports, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board.  In affirming the NLRB, the First Circuit determined that the Employer failed to properly repudiate its prior, unlawful handbook policies even though it revised those policies in collaboration with the NLRB Regional Office.
Continue Reading Must Employers Repudiate Unlawful Handbook Policies?

In a perplexing – if not shocking – decision, the National Labor Relations Board determined that there is substantial difference between an employee having the opportunity to vote in a mail ballot election, and his or her vote in fact being counted.

In Premier Utility Services, LLC, the employer, a utility company with 101 employees living and working in New York City’s five boroughs, participated in a mail ballot election from October 20 to November 4, 2015 to determine whether Communications Workers of America, Local 1101 would represent the petitioned-for employees.  However, as of November 4, 2015, the NLRB Regional Office had received only four (!) ballots.  As a result, the parties postponed the tally of ballots until November 12, 2015, a somewhat usual departure from the NLRB’s usual election procedures.  By November 12, 2015, the NLRB only received 34 ballots out of the possible 101.  Nevertheless, the Region counted the ballots and the Union received a majority of the votes counted, 20-14.Mail

Following the count, the NLRB Regional office received an additional 55 ballots, including 48 ballots that were postmarked before November 4, the end of the original voting period.  The Regional Director, however, refused to count the 48 ballots that were postmarked before November 4 because they were received after November 12.  As a result, the union was certified as the bargaining representative based on only 34 votes out of 101 eligible voters, even though a large number of additional ballots had been timely mailed!!!

Continue Reading NLRB Refuses to Count Timely-Mailed Ballots

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues on its journey to try to take over the world. On January 13, 2016, the Board issued a Notice and Invitation to File Briefs in Columbia University, a case that involves Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWU, UAW (the Petitioner), who seeks to represent a unit of students who assist faculty with teaching, research, and other miscellaneous duties.

Specifically, the Board asked the parties and amici to address, among other issues, whether the Board should modify or overrule its 2004 decision in Brown University, in which it held that graduate student assistants who perform teaching services at a university in connection with their studies are not statutory employees within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act). Specifically, the Board found the teaching activities are so closely related to the students’ degree requirements that the students and the University are engaged in more of an educational relationship, rather than an economic one. That meant the Act did not cover those graduate student assistants, and they could not unionize. Notably, Brown University was a reversal of the NLRB’s position in its 2000 New York University case, in which it had held that graduate assistants are employees.  (Also worth noting, New York University was decided by in a Democratic administration, and Brown University in a Republican one).
Continue Reading NLRB Overreach: Grad Students as Employees?

As a management-side labor firm, we are constantly in opposition to unions. So we particularly enjoy the irony when a union – as an employer – is found to have violated the National Labor Relations Act. (Yes, unions do violate the NLRA!) On December 1, 2015, in Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689 and Tamar C. Simmons, the National Labor Relations Board ruled the Union violated the NLRA by disciplining and threatening to fire one of the Union’s administrative assistants.my way highway

The employee was a member of Office and Professional Employees (“OPELU”) Local Union 2, a union which routinely represents workers within the ATU. (Yes, the union itself is unionized!) Her job duties consisted of answering phones, processing grievances, handling incoming mail, and ensuring that a bulletin board was current. OPELU filed a grievance on the employee’s behalf after the president of the Union transferred some of her administrative tasks to non-bargaining unit employees.

The grievance was eventually dropped, but that did not stop the Union President from interrogating the employee about the timing of her break time. He also got “very angry” at the employee for talking about her breaks with another employee and told her to stop doing so. He issued her a warning letter about her attitude and tone, and also counseled her about keeping the bulletin board updated. Of particular significance, he suggested that if the employee was unhappy at work, she should quit.

Continue Reading Union Violates Employee’s Labor Rights

Recently, The Century Foundation, a group that pursues “non-partisan research and policy analysis” released a report on virtual labor organizing. The report assesses how a mobile application (“app”) or website could provide a platform that would help workers organize for labor campaigns.

According to the report, approximately 96 percent of workers use Internet, e-mail, or

In 1947, Shawe Rosenthal’s founder, Earle K. Shawe, filed the first unfair labor practice charge against a union under the Taft-Hartley Act. Now, in another major labor law first, S&R represented a Baltimore-based distribution company in the first NLRB election conducted by the Board in its Region 5 (generally covering the mid-Atlantic area) under its

The latest office fodder for me and my colleague, Jason Usher (who formerly worked at the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”)), involves an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision, Valley Health System LLC, that found that a healthcare employer’s English-only rule violated the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”).

Many employers, especially those in the healthcare