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Today’s Labor Updates, January 20, 2017

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Union Files Petition to Organize Boeing South Carolina Plant

by Bill Carey – January 20, 2017, 4:44 PM

For the second time in two years, the largest union representing aerospace workers has signaled its desire to organize Boeing employees in North Charleston, S.C., where the manufacturer assembles 787 Dreamliners. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) on January 20 announced that it will petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct a union election at the complex.

The IAM filed a petition with the NLRB in the spring of 2015, but withdrew it before the April 22 scheduled vote.

As of January 20, the independent, five-member NLRB serves under the administration of President Donald Trump, who early on will be able to appoint three new members to one expiring position and two vacancies. As of later this year, Trump will separately appoint a new general counsel, the person who determines which cases the board hears. Late last year, the current NLRB ruled that Trump had illegally refused to bargain with employees of his Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Boeing built the South Carolina final assembly facility—adding to its 787 assembly operation in Everett, Wash.—after acquiring the Vought-Alenia Global Aeronautica joint venture, which integrated 787 fuselage sections at the site near Charleston International Airport. Boeing rolled out the first completed 787 from the facility on April 27, 2012.

In a press release announcing the NLRB filing, the machinists union said “numerous workplace concerns that remain unaddressed, including subjective raises, inconsistent scheduling policies and a lack of respect on the shop floor,” led to its decision to mount another organizing campaign.

“Boeing workers just want to be treated with the respect they deserve,” said Mike Evans, the IAM’s lead organizer at the Boeing South Carolina plant. “Why should they be subject to a different set of standards and rules than folks building the exact same plane in Seattle?”

The manufacturer in a statement said it “firmly believes that a union is not in the best interest of Boeing South Carolina teammates and their families.” Should the NLRB permit a vote, employees must decide “whether they will turn over their rights to the IAM or keep a direct relationship with the company,” Boeing added.

The two sides traded accusations. The IAM said it postponed the 2015 election “due to unprecedented political interference on the part of South Carolina lawmakers and the rampant spread of misinformation among Boeing workers.” Evans added: “It was impossible to hold a free and fair election in an environment so ripe with mistruths and outright lies. Unfortunately, we’ve now heard numerous reports of the company walking people off the job for seeking a voice.”

The union said it expects the NLRB will issue election dates and locations in the coming weeks.

Joan Robinson-Berry, Boeing South Carolina vice president and general manager, responded. “We have not forgotten the IAM’s history in South Carolina, including their repeated insults regarding our teammates’ abilities, their contract with Vought that took away many of the benefits those teammates already had, their attempt to keep Boeing from building 787s in South Carolina through their claim with the NLRB, and their abandoned petition in April 2015,” she stated. “There’s simply no reason to believe that anything has changed between then and now.”


Obama NLRB Deep Sixes Employer Defense on Procedural Grounds

Friday, January 20, 2017

A recent NLRB decision demonstrates again the Obama NLRB’s willingness to entertain inconsistency when the outcome favors a union. Over the last eight years, some have noted that this has been a persistent theme at the NLRB.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is found in the NLRB’s Jan. 9 Williams-Sonoma Direct, Inc., decision. In this union election case involving the NLRB’s controversial Specialty Healthcare “micro unit” decision, the issue was the appropriateness of the union’s petitioned-for unit of merchandise processors. Under the procedural requirements of the NLRB’s new election rules effective since April 14, 2015, a party challenging the appropriateness of a petitioned-for unit procedurally must raise its defenses in its statement of position, which must be timely served on the NLRB and the other party. If the statement of position is not timely served, the party required to file the statement of position waives its defenses. On the basis that a statement of position was not filed timely, the NLRB majority held that under Section 102.66(d) of its new election rule the employer was precluded from litigating the unit composition issue. While NLRB member Philip Miscimarra agreed, he also took the time to point out how the NLRB has ruled differently when a similar issue confronted a union.

Miscimarra’s dissent highlights what many believe has been a disturbing trend over the last eight years, a tendency to treat issues differently when a union’s right is involved. Miscimarra noted for example that in another recent case, Brunswick Bowling Products, LLC, 364 NLRB No. 96, Slip Op. at 3 (2016), the NLRB held that a decertification petition (a petition filed by employees to vote out a union) could not be pursued notwithstanding the fact that the union in that case did not timely file its position statement raising a “contract bar” defense. Rather, the NLRB refused to find a waiver of the union’s defense. Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and member Lauren McFerran sidestepped this “inconsistency” critique and sweeping away the alleged discrepancy by noting “peculiar circumstances” that they say justified the ruling in favor of allowing the union to present a tardy defense.

It is these types of flip-flopping rationales many hope will become a thing of the past with a Trump NLRB. However, there is also quite a bit of uncertainty about what positions a Trump NLRB will tackle given that he also received significant support from union households.

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