June 25, 2024

Cablevision Illegally Discouraged Workers From Unionizing, N.L.R.B. Says

As part of the complaint, the labor board’s regional office for Manhattan and the Bronx is accusing Cablevision’s chief executive, James L. Dolan, of illegally telling the Bronx workers that they would be excluded from training and job opportunities if they voted to unionize. The board also said that Cablevision had improperly offered raises and improved benefits to its workers in the Bronx and elsewhere to deter them from joining a union.

Karen Fernbach, director of the labor board’s regional office, said those moves improperly influenced an election last June in which Cablevision’s installation workers in the Bronx voted overwhelmingly — 121 to 43 — against joining the Communications Workers of America.

The union has been battling Cablevision for more than two years as it seeks to organize cable workers in the New York metropolitan area. In January 2012, Cablevision workers in Brooklyn voted 180 to 86 to form a union, despite the company’s vigorous anti-union campaign, becoming the first of the company’s workers to organize in what is largely a union-free industry.

Ms. Fernbach said the N.L.R.B. would ask a judge to order Cablevision to desist from engaging in any future illegal activities should the communications workers seek another unionization vote in the Bronx. She said the board had given Cablevision time to enter settlement talks with the board and perhaps head off the filing of the complaint.

The labor board is issuing the complaint after the Communications Workers of America asked it to file charges against Cablevision.

Cablevision officials stressed on Monday that the complaint did not constitute a finding of wrongdoing. In a statement, Cablevision said that the “allegations are not accurate” and that the union’s assertions “are part of their ongoing campaign to damage Cablevision’s reputation.”

“Now,” the company said, “this matter will proceed to an administrative law judge and we look forward to an impartial hearing so that the facts can be fully understood.”

Ms. Fernbach said that as a remedy the labor board would ask a judge to order Mr. Dolan to read aloud, probably on video, a statement acknowledging that Cablevision had acted illegally and promising not to engage in such activities again.

Employers often criticize the labor board when it asserts that offering better wages and benefits is an improper effort to sway workers to vote against establishing a union. Employers say they are simply trying to do what workers want.

But Ms. Fernbach, citing numerous court decisions, said, “Employers’ beneficent conduct may have a coercive impact on employee free choice” on whether to vote to join a union.

The communications workers have asked the labor board’s regional office in Brooklyn to charge Cablevision with illegally firing 22 union members in Brooklyn in January when they were trying to speak with a company vice president. The company said they have since been brought back to work.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/nyregion/cablevision-illegally-discouraged-workers-from-unionizing-nlrb-says.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Labor Union Agrees to Stop Picketing at Walmart

The union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, made the pledge this week to avert likely charges from regulators that it engaged in weeks of illegal picketing at Walmart stores last fall.

The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that it would hold in abeyance any charges against the union and its affiliate, OUR Walmart, for six months to make sure they fulfilled their commitments.

Wal-Mart Stores had asked the labor board to determine if the union and OUR Walmart had violated a provision of federal law that prohibits worker groups from engaging in more than 30 days of picketing that is aimed at gaining union recognition.

Labor board officials had been considering whether to bring such charges against the union and OUR Walmart, a group of several thousand Walmart employees closely affiliated with the union. But on Tuesday, the union, in an apparent effort to forestall any charges, sent the N.L.R.B. a letter saying that OUR Walmart “has no intent to have Wal-Mart recognize or bargain with it as the representative of Wal-Mart employees.”

The union even told the labor board that both it and OUR Walmart would not picket for at least 60 days at Walmart stores, “including confrontational conduct that is the functional equivalent of picketing.”

Wal-Mart Stores applauded Thursday’s developments.

“Today, the National Labor Relations Board and the U.F.C.W. reached a settlement agreement that will bring the union’s unlawful tactics and disruptions toward Wal-Mart, our associates and our customers to an end,” said David Tovar, a company spokesman. “Our associates can now move forward knowing that the U.F.C.W. must stop its illegal and disruptive activities.”

As OUR Walmart and the union coordinated on-and-off demonstrations last October and November at Walmart stores around the country, culminating in a nationwide protest on Black Friday, Wal-Mart Stores asserted that the protests were clear violations of the law barring picketing for more than 30 days when a union is seeking recognition.

At the time, some OUR Walmart members insisted that the picketing was aimed merely at seeking higher wages and ending what they said was retaliation against employees who spoke out in favor of better wages and working conditions.

But other OUR Walmart members and union officials said their long-term goal was very much to unionize store workers. Such statements seemed to buttress the company’s claims that the demonstrations were indeed illegally protracted picketing that aimed to win union recognition.

In announcing that it would not, at least for now, bring charges against the union, the labor board said that the U.F.C.W. had disavowed any objective of seeking union recognition for Walmart workers and had promised to publicly state that commitment on its Web site and that of OUR Walmart and in mailings to the thousands of its members nationwide.

The labor board also noted another union concession — that if one of its regional directors brings charges against the union for violating the provision against illegal picketing, the union will not contest any N.L.R.B. effort to obtain a temporary injunction barring picketing.

Notwithstanding their promise not to seek to unionize Walmart workers and not to picket stores for at least 60 days, the union and OUR Walmart claimed victory.

The groups said they would still be able to picket after 60 days elapsed to call for improved wages and benefits.

In a statement, OUR Walmart said it “will continue to inform its members and supporters that the organization’s purpose is to help Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards.”

One official with the group said the labor board’s memo would in no way disrupt its plans to hold protests, strikes and rallies over the next 60 days and beyond, although protesters would be mindful not to walk in circles in front of Walmart stores.

In a statement, the union said, “Wal-Mart workers and their supporters will continue their call for change at Wal-Mart and an end to its attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs.”

A union spokeswoman said it might someday seek to unionize the stores, but would do so while observing the law that bars picketing for more than 30 days.

Labor board officials said that the complaint that Wal-Mart Stores had filed against union would be “dismissed in six months as long as the union complies with the commitments it has made.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/business/labor-union-agrees-to-stop-picketing-walmart.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

N.L.R.B. Backs Workers on Joint Arbitration Cases

In a decision that will no doubt anger many companies, the labor board concluded that a federal law protecting workers’ right to engage in concerted action trumps any arbitration agreement that bars them from bringing group claims. The ruling applies to nonmanagement private sector workers, union and nonunion, from low-wage restaurant workers to well-paid employees on Wall Street.

The ruling examined an agreement used by a nationwide homebuilding company, D. R. Horton, in which workers were required to waive their right to sue in court and instead bring all claims to an arbitrator on an individual basis. The agreement prohibited the arbitrator from consolidating claims, allowing a class or collective action or awarding relief to a group or class of employees.

The labor board ordered Horton to rescind the agreement or change it to make clear to employees that they were not waiving their right to pursue collective action.

“This is a big deal,” said Professor Alex Colvin, an expert on mandatory arbitration agreements who teaches at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “Mandatory arbitration agreements are so widespread, and this would suggest that many of them violate labor law by barring class actions. I also think the business community will be up in arms because you have federal labor law being applied in a nonunion setting.”

Mr. Colvin said more than 25 percent of nonunion workers had signed an agreement as a condition of employment in which they promised to take any employment dispute to arbitration, rather than to a judicial forum.

In amicus briefs, the Labor Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supported the workers’ position.

But the United States Chamber of Commerce and other business groups argued in opposing briefs that the labor board should defer to a Supreme Court decision issued last April involving consumers who had sued ATT Mobility for fraud. In that case, the high court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines that businesses could use standard-form contracts to forbid consumers from banding together in a single arbitration.

The Supreme Court found that the Federal Arbitration Act, which favors arbitrations, trumped a California Supreme Court decision that held that mandatory agreements that waived class actions were unconscionable.

The labor board distinguished its case by saying that the Federal Arbitration Act did not trump the National Labor Relations Act, the landmark 1935 law that gave workers a federally protected right to unionize and engage in concerted action.

“The board has long held, with uniform judicial approval, that the N.L.R.A. protects employees’ ability to join together to pursue workplace grievances, including through litigation,” the ruling said.

Justin M. Swartz, a New York lawyer who represents plaintiffs in employment cases, said, “The board’s decision recognizes the reality that employees, whether on Wall Street or Main Street, can’t enforce their rights one at a time. They need to be able to pool resources.”

But Marshall B. Babson, a former labor board member who helped write the amicus brief filed by the chamber, said the board was using an overly broad reading of concerted activity. “The National Labor Relations Act was not intended to be a ‘super class action statute’ that protects and preserves the right to proceed as a class in all circumstances without regard to the usual considerations by the court,” he said.

The ruling was completed on Tuesday and signed by two Democratic members, before one of those Democrats, Craig Becker, stepped down that day as his recess appointment expired. The board’s Republican member, Brian Hayes, recused himself in the case, without giving a reason. Board officials said the decision was legitimate because the board had a three-person quorum at the time the ruling was signed.

On Wednesday, President Obama defied Republicans in Congress and made three recess appointments to the labor board to prevent it from becoming paralyzed. When Mr. Becker stepped down on Tuesday, the board shrank to two members, including its chairman, Mark G. Pearce. Under a Supreme Court ruling, the board, which has five seats, cannot issue any decisions unless it has at least three members.

The Horton case was brought by Michael Cuda, a superintendent at the company, who asserted that Horton had misclassified a group of employees as superintendents to deprive them of protections, like overtime pay, under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company said Mr. Cuda’s employment agreement prohibited group claims.

In the decision released Friday, the board noted that it was not banning agreements that required employees to use arbitration to settle disputes, but that such agreements must offer some way for employees to make class and collective claims, either in arbitration or in court.

The decision is likely to be appealed to a federal court of appeals.

Business groups that filed amicus briefs in the case repeatedly cited the ATT decision by the Supreme Court as preventing the type of ruling made by the labor board. In that case, a California couple had objected to a $30 charge for what was said to be a free cellphone. They had signed a “take it or leave it” standard contract from ATT Mobility that required them to resolve disputes through arbitration and prohibited them from joining with others to seek class-action treatment, whether in arbitration or in traditional litigation in court.

Susanne Craig contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 6, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of a Cornell University professor. He is Alex Colvin, not Corvin.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7c3b2b2520e9825db75caf498fe9bd30

Machinists and Boeing Reach Deal

Union officials said that the deal resolved their disputes with Boeing and that they would ask the National Labor Relations Board to drop a politically charged case against Boeing over a new plant it opened this year in South Carolina. The agency, which filed the case in April in response to a complaint by the machinists’ union, is asserting that the company’s decision to build the $750 million plant in South Carolina constituted illegal retaliation against machinists in Washington for exercising their right to strike.

The labor board’s move against Boeing — in which it seeks to have the company to move the production line to Washington State — has been fiercely denounced by South Carolina officials and Republican presidential candidates, who have said the N.L.R.B. should not be telling companies where they can build new plants.

Boeing and the union said the settlement, announced 10 months before their existing contract expires, represented a new day between the often-feuding sides. Officials of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers expressed relief and delight that Boeing had decided to build a new aircraft in the Puget Sound area. The union had feared that Boeing would decide to build that aircraft in a southern state where unions are weak, just as Boeing did when it decided to build the new plant for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina.

The company and union announced Wednesday that Boeing would build its 737 Max, a more fuel-efficient version of its workhorse passenger jet, in Renton, Wash., near Seattle. Boeing currently builds 35 planes of the older 737 model each month in Renton. It plans to increase that to 42 per month, and perhaps more if it can achieve productivity improvements through incentive bonuses that are laid out in the new contract.

Industry analysts said the agreement was reached now because demand for new planes had soared and both the company and the union had a strong interest in making sure that production was not disrupted, a prospect that could send sales to Boeing’s rival, Airbus.

Officials with the machinists’ union said that they were pleased with the new contract and would urge the N.L.R.B. to drop its case against Boeing once union members ratified the contract.

“If this agreement is ratified, we will engage the government in discussion and inform them that our issues with the Boeing Company are behind us,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, which represents 28,000 Boeing workers in the Puget Sound area.

Lafe E. Solomon, the labor board’s acting general counsel, who brought the case against Boeing, called Wednesday’s agreement “a very significant and hopeful development.” He added that if it was ratified, “we will be in discussions with the parties about the next steps in the process.”

While it’s up to the labor board whether to drop the case, the union’s newfound embrace of Boeing could heavily influence the board’s course.

Industry analysts said the proposed contract was unusually generous and aimed to put a definitive end to a fractious era during which the machinists went on strike five times since 1977, including a 58-day strike in 2008 that cost Boeing $1.8 billion. With its huge order backlog, its plans to ramp up production and fierce competition from Airbus, Boeing seemed eager to solidify a new contract that would ensure years of labor peace — especially when some customers had threatened to give orders to Airbus if there were more strikes.

Under the tentative agreement, the workers would receive annual wage increases of 2 percent, cost-of-living adjustments, a productivity incentive program intended to pay bonuses of 2 to 4 percent and a ratification bonus of $5,000 for each member.

Workers will pay more for their health insurance, but at a time when many companies are pushing to replace traditional pensions with less costly 401(k) plans, Boeing agreed to a more generous pension formula and to guarantee that new hires would continue to receive traditional pensions.

Mr. Wroblewski said an especially important aspect of the agreement was its job security provisions, which he called “precedent setting.” He said the contract would “secure thousands of jobs while raising machinists’ pay and pensions.”

“Hopefully it also signals the start of a new relationship that can both meet our members’ expectations for good jobs, while giving Boeing the stability and productivity it needs to succeed,” he said.

James F. Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, voiced similar optimism.

“If our employees ratify a new agreement, building the 737 Max in Renton will secure a long and prosperous future there, as well as at other sites in the Puget Sound area and in Portland, Ore., where 737 parts are built,” he said.

Several other states, including Texas and South Carolina, had vied to win the 737 Max production.

Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company, an aviation consulting firm in Issaquah, Wash., said the new agreement was good for virtually everyone. “Boeing wins in that it has four more years of production stability,” he said. “It doesn’t have the pain and agony of a potential strike. It also wins in that it certainly appears that the N.L.R.B. case will go away.”

“The union wins in that it will have the new 737 Max in Renton and job security,” Mr. Hamilton added. “Boeing’s customers win because they don’t have the potential of a strike disruption. I don’t see any loser, other than the other states that were salivating to build the Max.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ec2949bda3447041a7532278d92f0860