NLRB Delivers A “Holiday Gift” To Employers: New Union Election Timelines

On December 13, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule revising the Obama-era union election procedures (known as “R-Case” rules). The revision to the procedures will become effective 120 days from its publication in the Federal Register next week.


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In May of 2013, some Walmart employees boarded buses bound for Bentonville, Arkansas to attend the Company’s annual shareholders meeting. The buses formed a caravan, picking up employees at Walmart locations on the way. The employees handed strike letters to their managers before departing.

The caravan was dubbed the “Ride for Respect.” It was organized by OUR Walmart, a group formed with the assistance of the United Food and Commercial Worker Union (UFCW). Once in Bentonville, the employees held demonstrations, attended the shareholder meeting, and engaged in other activities to publicize their grievances.
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As a management-side labor and employment firm, we frequently find ourselves on the other side of unions.  Unions are never shy to point out what they view as unfair, or poor terms and conditions of employment, even if their position is not objectively reasonable.  So what happens when the unions themselves are accused of treating their own employees poorly?
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Here’s another in my sometimes series of crazy things that employees (and, in this case, the National Labor Relations Board) do. Although the Board initially thought that employees playing driving games at highway speeds was protected activity (?!!), it has (fortunately for the rest of us drivers) rethought that position after being slapped down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
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The General Counsel (GC) of the National Labor Relations Board issued a memo on October 24, 2018 that focused on the unions’ duty of fair representation to their bargaining unit members. Numerous commentators, including management-side attorneys (as I am), trumpeted the fact that the Board is holding unions accountable. There seemed to be a feeling that, after years of employers being attacked by a left-leaning Board, the playing field is being re-leveled. But, as my partner Mike McGuire pointed out, is this really good for employers?
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In light of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s recent announcement of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to rescind the majority of its controversial electronic reporting requirements (which we discussed in our July 2018 E-Update), I decided to review some previous guidance on these requirements (yes, because I am that much of a nerd). The requirements had been imposed through a final rule issued in 2016, which also sought to provide additional protections to workers for reporting work-related illnesses and injuries – specifically targeting safety incentive programs and drug-testing programs. I was shocked to realize that OSHA asserts that post-incident drug-testing of employees pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement violates the Occupational Safety and Health Act!
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Back in 2016, on behalf of the Worklaw®Network, a nationwide association of independent labor and employment law firms of which Shawe Rosenthal is a member, we filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor to block the DOL’s new interpretation of the “persuader rule,” which is the advice exemption of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”). Several other suits were filed as well, a nationwide injunction was issued by a federal court in Texas, the DOL issued a proposed rule to rescind the new interpretation, and now, repeatedly citing the favorable decisions in our lawsuit and directly quoting the comments to the DOL’s proposed rule we submitted on behalf of Worklaw, the DOL has officially rescinded the rule.
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Co-Author Nick Vogt*

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the United States Supreme Court held that public sector unions may not assess union fees against non-union employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement. In so holding, the Supreme Court overturned its decades-old ruling in the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court held that public sector unions could assess fees regardless of membership status, because all employees benefit from union collective bargaining agreements regardless of union membership.
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On June 6, 2018, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued guidance on lawful and unlawful handbook rules under the National Labor Relations Act. This guidance follows the GC’s December 1, 2017 withdrawal of prior guidance on handbook rules that had been issued in 2015. Shortly thereafter, on December 14, 2017, the Board issued its decision in The Boeing Co., in which it articulated a new and more balanced test for assessing the legality of workplace rules, applicable to both unionized and non-unionized employers. 
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