New Labor Board: Giving Unions a Fair Shake

New Labor Board: Giving Unions a Fair Shake

New Labor Board Outlook Gives Unions a Fair Shake

IAM Journal
26 May 2022

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the governing body that regulates labor law outside the transportation industry, which is governed by the National Mediation Board under the Railway Labor Act. However, what happens at the NLRB tends to influence events and policies at the NMB and vice versa, which makes changes at one agency important at both. 

 “Workers everywhere are looking for protections that only a union can give them,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “Reaching a first contract is really the ultimate win of an organizing campaign.” Improving lives is at the heart of organizing, fighting for higher pay, better benefits and job security. But, removing barriers has been challenging, especially from 2017 through 2020. With each change in federal government administration, workers can get caught in the middle. According to a 2019 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), employers are charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of all union election campaigns.

“That’s unacceptable,” said Galloway. “We need to reduce that number to zero to make sure union representation elections are fair and adhere to the letter of the law.” In 2021, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handled 1,016 representation elections, up from 940 the year before. That statistic is good news amid a volatile climate of unethical, illegal union-busting. The IAM’s Midwest Territory is fighting such practices with all its might. One example is Motor Appliance Corporation in Washington, MO. The IAM was first approached by unhappy workers there in December 2021. By February, union supporters were organizing. But the company ran an egregious anti-union campaign that included a captive audience meeting, nearly 30 minutes of which was recorded via audio. Such a meeting is required by employers and designed to discourage union membership.

A hired company consultant who only called himself “Alex the union-buster” ran that meeting. The behavior exposed on the recording caught the attention of our union and later the NLRB. After listing to the audio, the IAM noted at least a dozen violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and filed unfair labor practice charges almost immediately. Last year, a sweeping change took place when new NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a 10-page memo laying out her agenda, which includes aggressively enforcing the National Labor Relations Act.

“One of the things that labor has always complained about is that there’s no real teeth in the act,” said IAM General Counsel Carla M. Siegel. GC Abruzzo is “looking for ways to impose more penalties when warrented and, therefore, more teeth in the act… to really make it painful for somebody to violate the act.” The difference between the current administration and the prior one is night and day, according to Siegel.

“Now, under this administration, we know that there’s somebody who will fairly look at the facts and determine whether there’s an unfair labor practice or not,” she explained. “Under the Trump administration, we didn’t have a fighting chance. The most egregious things they would say wasn’t an unfair labor practice, when it clearly violated the statute.” She said the current Board won’t always rule in unions’ favor, but we’re going to get a fair shake.

IAM Organizer Bob Beloit recognized a change when it came to the speed at which the NLRB reacted to the unfair labor charges at Motor Appliance Corp. He said normally it takes two to three weeks for affidavits, but this time around charges were filed on a Wednesday and the NLRB was ready to interview witnesses within five days. “They were very swift,” he said.

“What the anti-union consultant did inside this facility was so heinous,” Beloit said. “These people were so divided and so scared, but the core group of union supporters was really strong.” One of the unfair labor practice charges included discharging employees because of their union activities. Another charged the employer with interfering in the exercise of the employees’ rights, leading to what the NLRB calls constructive discharges, or constructive terminations. Those occur when employees feel forced to resign due to such intolerable or hostile working conditions. “To the person that’s lost their job and wondering where their next meal is going to come from, how they’re going to keep making their house payments,” Beloit said, “speed is very important. “When you can have that kind of speed, that puts the individual that’s been wronged at ease and it calms the rest of the group [of workers].”

Speed is also important because the more time that goes by, the greater potential for workers to be demoralized by a company’s immoral tactics. Organizers are fully aware of this scenario. Past consequences of unfair labor practices included posting a notice stating that workers’ rights were violated, but the IAM considers that a slap on the wrist. “When they put the notice up, they’re saying ‘I’m sorry we got caught,’” said Beloit. Fixing the broken labor law system in the United States will take time and strategic, collective action by all labor unions in North America. “We have a duty to call out any inadequacies in our government agencies, from the top down,” said Galloway. “This is a chance to right the wrongs against workers in a way that motivates future behavior.” “The Midwest Territory is amazing,” said Beloit. “General Vice President Galloway has a great team. We bounce ideas off one another. We meet monthly as organizers and get updates on the NLRB and that’s where we found out about this memo that came out.”

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) has the ability to correct unlawful practices by expanding labor protections, making captive audience meetings unfair labor practices, and prohibiting employers from taking adverse actions against employees who exercise their legal labor rights. Beloit encourages organizers to document everything, pay attention to details and stay organized. “You cannot document enough,” said Beliot. “Save everything, every email, meeting sign-in sheets.” He says what organizers do in the beginning of the campaign gives them something to work with if unfair labor practices charges arise. “We’re here at this point because of a phenomenal group of people that had a dream,” said Beloit. “They knew it was legally obtainable, they put faith in the system. They wanted to give it a try and they had a chance of being successful because of the amazing leadership this union has.” Unions are only as strong as the members that hold them together. “Stronger unions mean stronger communities,” Galloway said. “It’s a very important time in labor’s history.” 

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Maintaining open communication channels and an environment that encourages solidarity is critical for unions negotiating industry-leading contracts with billion-dollar firms.

A solid communication strategy allows union members to stay engaged and active. Making sure everyone can see the big picture and the vital role individual members play in the overall success of the union can often hinge on getting the basics of communications right.

Effective union communication can help get everyone on the same page and move forward with solidarity toward the same goal. But, “Getting it Right” in terms of communications isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of work.

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All across the nation, workers are fed up and fired up

2022 is turning out to be an incredible year as workers are voting to join unions and improve their lives. From baristas to warehouse workers and airline pilots to journalists and workers at cannabis dispensaries, working people all across the country are fed up and fired up.

There’s a super easy way to show you support working people: say the line Union Yes when placing your orders at the register, or add it in the app. Not sure which companies’ workers are organizing? That’s OK. There’s a good chance it’s happening everywhere!

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Ten airlines and air cargo carriers are asking President Joe Biden to lift Federal mask mandates for travelers. They are also calling for an end to testing requirements for international travel.

In a joint statement, the airlines argued that the mandates are no longer necessary and create an ongoing burden for airlines.

“The high level of immunity in the U.S., availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability, and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the Administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements,” the statement read. 

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“It is critical to recognize that the burden of enforcing both the mask and predeparture testing requirements has fallen on our employees for two years now,” the statement read. “This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being,” it continued. 

According to industry studies from airline unions, mask mandates have led to more than 4,000 attacks on airline employees tasked with enforcing Federal rules. In 2021, there were more than 5,500 incidents reported by airline workers. There were typically only about one to two hundred such attacks before the pandemic. In about 40% of these cases, airline managers and police did not follow up abuse with serious consequences. About 70% of air rage attacks happen as airline workers attempt to enforce federal masking mandates. 

You can read the entire statement here.

 

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GOIAM.org
7 March 2022

“The Machinists Union has championed and called for an expansion of ‘Buy American’ domestic content requirements for decades. Today’s announcement is further proof that in President Biden, we finally have a champion for U.S. workers in the White House.”

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2022 – Robert Martinez Jr., International President of the 600,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace, the largest aerospace and defense labor union in North America, released the following statement regarding President Biden’s expansion of “Buy American”:

“The Machinists Union has championed and called for an expansion of ‘Buy American’ domestic content requirements for decades. Today’s announcement is further proof that in President Biden, we finally have a champion for U.S. workers in the White House.

“Today’s announcement makes real what we have been saying all along—that ‘Made in America’ should mean ‘Made in America.’ In fact, the Machinists Union, along with U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, championed an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would have made a similar ‘Buy American’ threshold increase for defense products. That bipartisan amendment passed the House before being defeated by corporate-backed politicians in the Senate.

“The Biden administration is now applying that rule—that any product stamped with ‘Made in America’ should have 75% of its value come from parts made here in the United States—to all products purchased with taxpayer dollars by 2029.

“This is critical for our domestic supply chains. It is music to the ears of American workers. It puts our tax dollars toward buying the best products made by the best workers. And it will finally make a real difference toward bringing back U.S. jobs that have been sent out of the country by bad trade deals and corporate greed.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Biden administration and the Made in America Office for hearing our call and the calls of millions of Americans. Let’s build the future right here in America.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, manufacturing, transit, healthcare, automotive and other industries.

 

goIAM.org | @MachinistsUnion

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GoIAM.org
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WASHINGTON – IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. issued this statement following President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court:

“President Biden promised to nominate an extremely qualified candidate to the U.S. Supreme Court, who will also move the Court toward a more accurate representation of the American people. The President has delivered on that promise.

“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of our nation’s brightest legal minds, is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. As a federal judge and in both private and public practice, Judge Jackson has built a lifetime record of fighting for the freedoms of all people. IAM and NFFE-IAM members in the federal sector saw her stand with them to block the Trump administration’s campaign to gut their collective bargaining rights.

“As the daughter of public school teachers, Judge Jackson knows what it means to serve and the challenges facing working people. She will help restore balance to the Supreme Court and ensure that working peoples’ voices are heard on the High Court. The IAM urges the Senate to move quickly on Judge Jackson’s nomination.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.

goIAM.org | @MachinistsUnion

 
 
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