Q. We represent some dues objectors at several companies where we have contracts. We got information from the National Labor Relations Board about the procedures it says we should use, and we've been following those. Does this take care of our responsibilities in this area?
Q. At one company where we have had contracts for many years, the employer keeps classifying various jobs as non-union, although they should be covered by our contract. This has been going on for some time, but our grievance procedure requires us to file a grievance within a short time limit, which is well past. Is it too late to get these people into the bargaining unit?
Q. We're in contract bargaining, and the company wants us to expand the grievance procedure to include every kind of discrimination covered by federal law or by state law. We're not sure whether this would be good for our members or not.
A. It may not. Dues objectors working for private sector companies can raise claims at the NLRB or go into federal court with their claims. The various federal circuit courts of appeal, which cover different regions of the country, have each developed requirements for unions in this area which are not identical to the NLRB's standards or even to the standards applied by other federal circuit courts. It is prudent to have an attorney review the decisions of the federal circuit court which covers your area to be sure that your dues objector policies comply with that court's decisions.
A. Possibly not. It may be possible to get a ruling from an arbitrator that the failure to include these jobs in the bargaining unit is a "continuing violation" of the contract, so that the failure to act within the contract's short time limits will not keep your union from correcting this problem. This is a very fact-specific area, so you would be wise to review the facts of the matter and the contract language with an attorney. Depending upon the facts, you may also have recourse to the NLRB, with its six month time limit for filing an unfair labor practice charge, or its entirely different and frequently longer time limits for filing a unit clarification petition.
A. As you recognized, it is unlikely the company is proposing this to benefit the employees. A current trend among employers is to try to limit to arbitration a variety of employee claims that might otherwise go to court. Whether or not this can work for the employer varies from area to area in the country. However, there are obvious problems with including in the union contract all the types of remedies and rights that an employee might otherwise get in court. It is also difficult for most local unions to take on the burden of pursuing every legal right an employee might have against the employer. When a union counter-proposes that the contract allow the union and the employees to receive any and all remedies available in legal actions in court, including, but not limited to, punitive damages, attorney fees, litigation costs, interest, and front-pay, it often finds that the employer no longer wishes to limit the employees, and burden the union, with its proposal.
Protecting & Expanding Employee Rights
David R. Levinson, Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 39286
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: (202) 223-3434
Fax: (202) 659-1034
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
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