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Labor Relations News Update July 1, 2014

Today’s Labor Updates:

Supreme Court Ruling Forces NLRB to Scramble to Revisit Cases

NUPENG Threatens Strike Over Sack Of 154 Members By Chevron

China Panel Dismisses Labor Complaint Against Wal-Mart


Supreme Court Ruling Forces NLRB to Scramble to Revisit Cases

By Melanie Trottman

Updated June 26, 2014 9:53 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruling that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority in 2012 by appointing three people to the National Labor Relations Board kicks off a scramble by the current board to revisit hundreds of labor decisions made while the now-departed appointees were seated.

The Democratic-controlled board of the NLRB, a federal agency that oversees private-sector union-organizing elections and referees management-employee disputes, decided 436 cases during the 18 months two of the three now-invalid appointees were seated, an NLRB spokesman said. The third appointee stepped down after several months on the job.

The current board must decide whether to protectively redo those 436 rulings to try to shield them from new challenges, though labor lawyers said that in general, the vast majority of board decisions aren’t controversial. Many of the NLRB orders have likely already been implemented, such as workers being rehired or collective-bargaining contracts being negotiated and implemented. It would be hard to undo such things and likely not worthwhile for parties to challenge, labor lawyers said.

Still, more than 100 of the 436 decisions were challenged by companies in federal court and could be sent back by the courts to the board to be re-decided—if they haven’t been otherwise resolved, labor lawyers said Thursday.

Board decisions made during the 18-month period include one that protected employees from being fired for complaining about working conditions on social-media sites. Other decisions gave greater rights to unions seeking information in employee-discipline cases and eased the type of financial information a union must provide to workers who object to being members.

The lawyer representing Hispanics United of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y., the employer in the social-media case, said the dispute had been resolved with the NLRB. The lawsuit cited recess appointments in its challenge to a board order to rehire the five workers it fired.

“My client would have literally been engaged in litigation for the next three years,” attorney Rafael Gomez said, saying the matter was closed. He said Hispanics United agreed to pay fired workers a portion of their backpay and the workers waived their rights to be rehired.

In another case known as Banner Health System, the NLRB shot down what it characterized as a blanket company rule prohibiting employees from discussing with each other ongoing investigations of employee misconduct.

A spokesman for Banner Health, a Phoenix-based health system that includes more than 20 hospitals, said it was “unclear to us what the current board will do now that our case has been deemed void by this decision.” The nonprofit will be “consulting with our legal team to determine what steps, if any, we take,” Banner Health spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

“We are analyzing the impact that the court’s decision has on board cases in which the January 2012 recess appointees participated,” NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said in a written statement. Mr. Pearce is the only current board member who was seated while the now-invalid appointees were on the board.

Mr. Obama made the recess appointments during a brief Senate break in January 2012, saying he did so to prevent the board from lacking a required three-member quorum to conduct most of its business. The Constitution allows presidents to install top administration personnel without Senate approval when the Senate is in recess.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court held presidents can make such appointments only when the Senate is on break for 10 or more days. That made Mr. Obama’s January 2012 appointments invalid.

Mr. Pearce said the board’s five current members all were confirmed by the Senate. The board is “prepared to fulfill our responsibility to enforce the National Labor Relations Act” and is “committed to resolving any cases affected by today’s decision,” he said in a statement.

The NLRB spokesman declined to elaborate or answer additional questions, including questions about which cases might be revisited and when.

Several labor lawyers said they expect the current board to re-decide cases similarly to the previous board because of the Democratic majorities on both.

The pace of other board initiatives could be slowed, however, as it deals with the impact of the court ruling.

The company at the root of the Supreme Court case, beverage bottler Noel Canning, initially challenged Mr. Obama’s NLRB appointments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The company, a division of Noel Corp. of Yakima, Wash., argued the recess appointments were invalid, leaving the NLRB without a quorum when it made the bottler comply with a Teamsters collective-bargaining agreement. Other companies subsequently mimicked the framework of Noel Canning’s challenge.

The ruling “vindicates the constitutional rights of Noel Canning Co. and ensures that the recess appointment power is exercised in accordance with constitutional limits,” said Jones Day attorney Noel Francisco, who argued the case on behalf of Noel Canning.

Write to Melanie Trottman at


NUPENG Threatens Strike Over Sack Of 154 Members By Chevron

sola Adebayo — June 30, 2014

Fresh crisis is imminent in the nation’s oil industry as the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), on Saturday, served a notice of strike over the sack of its members by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).

Already, the oil workers’ union had issued a seven-day ultimatum to the management of CNL to recall the sacked members. The union threatened to embark on strike at the end of the deadline.

The union said the strike would start in five states, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Kogi and Ekiti, before it spreads to the rest of the country.

NUPENG’s Warri Zonal Chairman, Cogent Ojobor, told newsmen at the end of a cruial meeting of the union in Warri, Delta State, on Saturday, that 154 members of the association have been “unjustifiably disengaged by the management of Chevron.”

He accused the management of the oil company of undue harassment of its members, adding that the deadline would expire on July 7.

He lamented that the union had exhausted all peaceful means of resolving the impasse.

To this end, he warned that “activities in the Warri Refinery, filling stations, loading depots, PTI, and all other oil facilities in the affected states will be shut down. There will be no going back until our demands are met by CNL. The seven-day notice is expected to kick-off on Monday 30th June 2014 (today) and our actions will thereafter affect Delta, Edo, Ondo, Kogi and Ekiti states.”

He said that the union had held several meetings with Chevron at the Federal Ministry of Labour. “But their statement, which I know is a lie, is that they have been told by NAPIMS and Ministry of Labour to downsize,” Ojobor said.

The management of the CNL recently ordered oil workers who have served the company for 25 years and above to proceed on early retirement as parts of the restructuring to cut operational costs and flush out ageing workers.

Also asked to embark on early retirement were workers, who had just about five years to remain in the service of the oil conglomerate. The exercise cut across all cadres of the organisation.

The exercise, Leadership learnt, was designed to eliminate workers, who no longer add value to the company and replace them with fresh and youthful workforce.

The initiative was tagged “Voluntary Service Disengagement Package, (VSDP).

Under the VSDP initiative, the company, however, introduced juicy and attractive packages to entice the workers to opt for early disengagement from office.

Among other things, the company offered to pay all the entitlements of the affected workers, including their five year’s salary upfront.

It was gathered that the management decided to enforce the order following the refusal of the workers to embrace the offer at the end of March.


China Panel Dismisses Labor Complaint Against Wal-Mart

Committee in Changde Dismisses Worker Demands for Added Compensation

Updated June 26, 2014 9:27 a.m. ET

BEIJING—Authorities in China dismissed a labor dispute brought against  Wal-Mart Stores Inc., potentially ending a three-month dispute between the retailer and union activists.

An arbitration committee in the Chinese city of Changde dismissed worker demands for additional compensation from the retailer, one representative of the committee said.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart said the company follows Chinese law, treats employees with respect and is “glad that the arbitrator has agreed through the decision.”

More than five dozen employees have been in arbitration with Wal-Mart over the past three months, claiming they didn’t receive proper compensation or notification about a store closure in the city in March.

Many workers plan to appeal, said Huang Xingguo, an employee and union official at the store, who has galvanized employees in their fight against the Bentonville, Ark. -based retailer. Mr. Huang said that the committee will give workers 15 days to file an appeal and that the committee will allow two appeals.

Of the 69 employees who rejected Wal-Mart’s original settlement offer of one month’s pay plus payment for each year of employment, 51 accepted a new settlement that offers 3,000 yuan on top of the original one month’s pay plus payment for each year of employment. Eighteen haven’t accepted settlement, Mr. Huang said.

“The decision is very disappointing,” he said, adding that the arbitrators didn’t provide what workers deserve.

Labor disputes are common in China, where sometimes-violent protests over the years have disrupted the making of everything from Japanese cars to Nike and Adidas shoes.

But the dispute in Changde has attracted attention because it has marked a shift for worker activism in China, where labor unions are typically passive due to the way unions are organized. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions, China’s only legal union, is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party rather than by workers. Labor experts say local chapters of the union typically have been led by company managers who have silenced workers’ complaints in order to safeguard corporate interests to ensure local stability and economic growth.

Mr. Huang led the labor dispute with Wal-Mart without explicit instructions from the national union.

China is a key market for Wal-Mart, which in October revealed plans to close 15 to 30 stores over 18 months as part of a goal to improve its operations in the country.

—Fanfan Wang and Laurie Burkitt

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