Tag Archives: union

Update on NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of Muslim groupds

Are Muslim communities being unfairly targeted by law enforcement?  This is the conversation being raised after the New York Civil Liberties Union sought to revisit a 41-year old case.

You may have heard about news articles discussing NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of New York-based Muslim groups.  Last year, the Associated Press confirmed the existence of a program, called the Assessment Program, formerly known as the Demographics Unit, which spied on Muslims.

As way of background, in 1985, a Manhattan federal judge ordered a consent decree (known as “Handschu guidelines”) whereby the police is barred from investigating political and religious organizations without “specific information” linking the group to a crime.  In that case, Handschu v. Special Services Division, the police had extensive dossiers on a large array of political groups, including the Black Panthers.

After 9-11, the judge loosened the Handschu guidelines to give police wider powers to investigate political groups in the war on terror.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a memorandum, submitted to the court, seeking to end the NYPD’s Assessment Program.  In the memorandum there is testimony stating that an informant was paid as much as $1,500 a month to take part in the NYPD’s alleged “create and capture” program.  The informant stated,

This meant I was to pretend to be a devout Muslim and start an inflammatory conversation about jihad or terrorism and then capture the respond to sent to the NYPD.

I did this on numerous occasions with people I met at the mosques and other locations.

The question to be decided is – how much latitude law enforcement given when conducting surveillance of political and religious groups?

As a side note, you may have also come across the story regarding the FBI’s surveillance on Muslims groups, known as “Operation Flex.”  That story has been reported in many news circles, including the Business Insider here.

via Courthouse News Service.

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NLRB charge alleging illegal picketing at Wal-Mart held in abeyance

The NLRB Office of General Counsel today announced that, based on specific commitments made by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, it is not necessary to decide the merits of an unfair labor practice charge filed by Wal-Mart against the UFCW.

In that charge, filed November 20, Wal-Mart alleged that the union violated the National Labor Relations Act by picketing at its stores for more than 30 days with the intent of seeking recognition for the union, without filing a petition for an election. The union, however, contended that the actions at the stores were not intended to gain union recognition, but to help employees in their efforts to have the employer commit to certain labor rights and standards.

The charge will be held in abeyance and dismissed in six months as long as the union complies with the commitments it has made. Under those commitments, described in an Advice Memorandum, the union disavowed any recognitional or organizational object and promised to maintain a disclaimer to that effect on Making Change for Wal-Mart and OUR Walmart websites. The union also promised, among other things, not to engage in any picketing or confrontational conduct which is the functional equivalent of picketing for 60 days.

via NLRB charge alleging illegal picketing at Wal-Mart held in abeyance | NLRB.

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NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional

Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the NLRB recess appointments were unconstitutional.  It goes without saying that the possible ramifications of this decision, which may impact other NLRB decisions.

In Noel Canning, the NLRB held that the issue presented was mooted because the NLRB recess appointments were unconstitutional.  In its decision, the court essentially stated that the Senate wasn’t in recess.  The court reasoned that “recess” occurs when Congress is not in one of its regular two or three sessions.

via Workplace Prof Blog: D.C. Circuit Holds NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional.

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Unionization Rates Continue to Decline

On January 23, 2013, the BLS released its annual report on the rate of unionization. Overall, the rate of unionization feel from 11.8% to 11.3%. Public sector workers had a 35.8 percent membership rate while the rate on unionization in the private sector dropped to 6.6%.

Significantly, however, union members continue to earn more than there non-union counterparts. As the report states:

In 2012, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742.

In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distribution sof union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, firm size, or geographic region.

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Breaking News. Unionization Rates Continue to Decline.

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NLRB Issues Major Decision Imposing Bargaining Obligation Over Discipline Before Union Reaches Contract

Alan Ritchey Inc., 359 N.L.R.B. No. 40, 12/14/12 [released 12/19/12], is a major NLRB decision. The time after a union is certified until it reaches its first contract is often long and difficult.

This decision holds, for the first time, that an employer MUST bargain with the union BEFORE imposes major discipline on unit employees notwithstanding the fact that a CBA has not been reached. As the NLRB stated:

Not every unilateral change that affects terms and conditions of employment triggers the duty to bargain. Rather, the Board asks “whether the changes had a material,substantial, and significant impact on the employees’ terms and conditions of employment.” Toledo Blade Co., 343 NLRB 385, 387 2004 emphasized.

This test is a pragmatic one, designed to avoid imposing a bargaining requirement in situations where bargaining is unlikely to produce a different result and, correspondingly, where unilateral action is unlikely to suggest to employees that the union is ineffectual or to precipitate a labor dispute. We draw on this basic principle, adjusted to fit the present context, today.

Disciplinary actions such as suspension, demotion, and discharge plainly have an inevitable and immediate impact on employees’ tenure, status, or earnings. Requiring bargaining before these sanctions are imposed is appropriate, as we will explain, because of this impact on the employee and because of the harm caused to the union’s effectiveness as the employees’ representative if bargaining is postponed.

Just as plainly, however, other actions that may nevertheless be referred to as discipline and that are rightly viewed as bargainable, such as oral and written warnings, have a lesser impact on employees, viewed as of the time when action is taken and assuming that they do not themselves automatically result in additional discipline based on an employer’s progressive disciplinary system.

Bargaining over these lesser sanctions—which is required insofar as they have a “material, substantial, and significant impact” on terms and conditions of employment—may properly be deferred until after they are imposed.

(emphasis added).

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: NLRB Issues Major Decision Imposing Bargaining Obligation Over Discipline Before Union Reaches Conract.

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Wisconsin Act 10 (Budget bill) Upheld

Do you remember the Governor Walker’s Wisconsin anti-union bill?  Well, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld it.

As background, Governor Walker signed Act 10 which made its strongest impact on collective bargaining, compensation, retiring, health insurance, and sick leave of public sector employees.

The most-talked about change was to collective bargaining rights.  The bill limited collective bargaining to wages.  As you may know, unions often bargain on a plethora of topics – such as sick leave, vacation, pension, health insurance, funeral leave, discipline, training, retirement, lay offs, and so on.  Further, the bill out-right prohibited employers from collecting union dues and bargaining units would not be required to pay union dues.  However, some units were exempted: local law enforcement, state troopers, and inspectors.

In Wisconsin Educational Council v. Walker, ____F.3d___ (7th Cir. Jan. 18, 2013), the main challenge was based on equal protection.  The bill basically created 2 classifications of public employees: (1) public safety employees, and (2) general employees.  According to the bill, as stated previously, the limitations of collective bargaining rights were applied only to the general employees.

In the 74-page decision, the 7th Circuit Court held that the bill was constitutional.  The court held that the bill did not create view-point discrimination. The court explained that the different treatment was justified on the greater consequences of public safety worker strikes.

 

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Breaking News! 7th Upholds The Constitutionality of Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill.

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Wisconsin labor fight heats up

Public school teachers filed a class action against a public school district that claims it can cut their pay at will and fine them up to $2,500 if they don’t sign their contracts on time.

The class action, which has a putative class size of 230 teachers, alleges that the school district’s contracts have illegal and unenforceable provisions.  For example, the contract allows

  1. The district to fire or reduced the pay and benefits of tenured teachers for vague and undefined reasons;
  2. The district can fine tenured teachers $1,000 to $2,500 if they don’t sign the contract by the time the school district wants it, or seek release from the contract.

The class action further claims:

  • The 2012-13 contracts illegally allow the district to “make salary adjustments ‘due to disciplinary action and/or changes in full-time equivalency warranted by the district,'” in violation of Wis. Stat. § 118.21;
  • The contracts illegally allow the district to cut salary and benefits “if in the sole discretion of the district, the educator fails to meet the expectations referenced in the contract, acts in a manner that is not in the best interests of the district’s students, fails to abide by the terms of the Employee Handbook, fails to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the job description, or if the district decides to reduce the professional staff for financial or other lawful reasons,” in violation of Wis. Stat. § 118.21, § 118.21, and state contract law; and
  • The contracts illegally set up “a liquidated damages schedule that begins assessing damages on June 1,” with fines beginning at $1,000, escalating to 2,500, for failing to sign contracts by June 15, or seeking release from contract; this “unlawfully assesses damages to teachers seeking release from their contracts prior to the statutory date for acceptance.”

The contracts state “that failure to return a signed contract … would result in non-renewal of the teacher’s contract,” the teachers say: “A stigma is attached to being non-renewed by a school district, as it suggests that a teacher’s employment was not continued for performance reasons or misconduct.”

The class cites violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.21, under which the school district must fix teachers’ wages, violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.22, under which the school district must set the contract acceptance date at June 15, and violation of Wisconsin Statute 118.23, under which it can terminate permanent only employees for good cause.

via Courthouse News Service.

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Arbitration Must-Have Book

Elkouri & Elkouri is the must-have books for attorneys that handle arbitrations in the labor field.

The 7th edition is edited by Kenneth May and is available for $325.  BNAs web site describes this book as follows:

The new Seventh Edition provides additional analysis that enhances the usefulness of the volume and incorporates major points of interest to labor relations practitioners. In-depth coverage of critical topics includes:

  • Arbitrators consideration of external law in labor arbitration
  • Legislation and litigation developing standards for evidentiary privilege as it relates to union shop stewardsArbitrators views on threats and violence
  • Reconsideration of the continued viability of the plain meaning rule
  • New case law on the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to labor arbitration
  • Revision of the discussion of state and local government arbitration and interest arbitration in light of recent changes in state law

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Book Review Highlight Elkouri and Elkouri How Arbitration Works 2012.

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NLRB Clarifies Social Media Case Analysis

I mentioned this case before in a prior post.  Nevertheless, it warrants a follow up post dealing specifically with this case: Hispanic United of Buffalo.

In Hispanic United of Buffalo,the NLRB clarified the analysis for Facebook and other social media cases.

The facts are fairly typical for the increasing number of Facebook cases.  One employee had been complaining about the performance of co-workers and informed one of them that she was going to report her criticisms to the boss.  The co-worker posted a message on her Facebook page noting the criticism, saying she had “about had it,” and asking her fellow co-workers how they felt.  Four of them posted a defense of their work on the Facebook page, all while off-duty and on their own computers.  The employer fired all five for bullying the critical employee on Facebook.

All three Board members (Block, Griffin, and Hayes) agreed that the usual analysis for Section 8(a)(1) terminations–Meyers Industries–is applicable.  There wasn’t much discussion on this point, which is not surprising, as there is really nothing special about using social media other than it’s newer and cooler than more traditional forms of communication.  This essentially confirms what the General Counsel and many commentators (including yours truly) has been saying for a while, but it’s obviously a lot more helpful for the Board to make that clear.

via Workplace Prof Blog: NLRB Clarifies Social Media Case Analysis.

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NLRB holds dues check-off survives CBA expiration

Recently, the NLRB released its decision (3-1) in WKYC-TV, in which the NLRB reversed the long-standing rule Bethelem Steel that agreements for dues checkoffs will not continue after the contract expires.

The new rule will not apply to pending cases.   The essence of the majority decision is that because dues checkoffs are mandatory subjects of bargaining, the normal Katz rule for such topics–that they must continue while a new contract is being negotiated–should apply unless there is a reason for an exception; the majority found that there wasn’t.  In making this conclusion, the majority distinguished clauses that involved the waiver of rights, like no-strike clauses.  The majority also criticized Bethelem Steel for treating dues checkoff provisions the same as union security clauses (in part because of its reading of Sections 8(a)(3) and 302(c)).

Member Hayes dissented, arguing that there was no evidence that the old rule wasn’t working. Further, he disagreed with the majority’s statutory interpretation.  He also stressed that limiting dues checkoffs to an active collective-bargaining agreement was more consistent with the concept of voluntary unionism.

via Workplace Prof Blog: Dues Check-Off Now Survives Contract Expiration.

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