The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel on Thursday issued a memo stating that employers’ pervasive practice of requiring workers to attend anti-union meetings is illegal under federal law, even though Labor Council precedent allows it.
General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, who implements federal labor law through abuse litigation, said her office will soon brief a case before the Labor Council, which adjudicates such questions, and asks the council to reverse its precedent in meetings.
Referring to the National Labor Relations Act, Ms. Abruzzo said in a statement: “Coercion licensing is an anomaly in labor law, and contravenes the law’s protection of the free choice of employees.” “I believe the precedent of the NLRB case, which tolerated such meetings, goes against basic labor law principles, our legal language, and our mandate in Congress.”
In recent months, prominent employers such as Amazon and Starbucks, facing growing union crackdowns, have held hundreds of meetings in which they have tried to persuade workers not to join unions by arguing that unions are a “third party” that may come between management and workers.
Amazon officials and advisors have repeatedly told workers in mandatory meetings that they “may end up with more wages and benefits than they were getting before the union, the same amount they earned, or they may end up with less,” according to testimony from NLRB hearings. About union elections in Alabama last year.
The company spent more than $4 million last year on consultants who participated in such meetings and searched for workers on warehouse floors.
But many workers and union officials complain that these claims are highly misleading. Union employees typically earn more than comparable non-union employees, and it is highly unusual for workers to see their compensation decline as a result of a union contract.
Wilma B. said: Lippmann, who chaired the Labor Council under President Barack Obama, said the Labor Council would likely be sympathetic to Ms. Abruzzo’s argument and could reverse precedent. But she said it was unclear what practical effect the reversal would have, because many employees may feel compelled to attend anti-union meetings even if they are no longer mandatory. “Those on the fence may be reluctant to stay away for fear of retaliation or being singled out,” Ms. Lippmann wrote by email.
According to a spokeswoman, the board’s regional offices, which Ms Abruzzo oversees, are also likely to issue complaints against employers during meetings. One union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, brought such an issue in Bessemer, Alaska, where it recently helped organize workers seeking unionization at an Amazon warehouse. Vote counting last week showed union supporters narrowly ahead of union opponents in that election, but the outcome will depend on several hundred contested votes whose status will be determined in the coming weeks.
The Labor Council spokeswoman said the outcome of the board’s “pioneering” case on mandatory meetings would connect the other issues. The case is pending but not identified.