RJRT Employees Reject Union . . . Again!  For the second time in 14 months, the production and maintenance employees at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company plants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina voted against union representation.  The vote, on May 11 and 12, was 1228 to 862 against joint representation by the International Association of Machinists and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers unions.  The union organizing campaign had involved a coordinated effort of both unions, who formed the United Tobacco Alliance.  The union petition was filed after more than 80 rank-and-file members and organizers of both unions spent four days making visits to employees' homes.

A team of attorneys from Constangy assisted R.J. Reynolds' management and supervision with legal issues associated with a comprehensive employee communications campaign that included a company website, video productions, and employee group meetings.  Constangy and Reynolds had worked together on a campaign previously, in March 2005, and the employees rejected union representation then, too.

NLRB Poised to Decide Fate of Card-Check/Neutrality Agreements – The case involves an appeal from a 2003 Administrative Law Judge decision, holding that a letter agreement between Dana Corp. and the UAW did not constitute illegal pre-recognition bargaining.

The Agreement between Dana and the UAW provided that the company would not say anything in opposition to the union, would tell employees that it had a “constructive” relationship with the union, and would recognize the union upon a showing that a majority of employees had signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by the UAW.

The agreement also identified certain “principles” that would be negotiated if the union became the majority representative at any company facility, and the company agreed to provide the union with employee names and home addresses and to allow the union to meet with employees in non-work areas of company facilities.

The General Counsel issued a complaint against the company and the union, alleging that by entering into an agreement containing specific terms and conditions of employment before the UAW held majority status, Dana unlawfully provided and the union accepted assistance to the union.  On May 12, 2006, the NLRB granted requests by 10 organizations to file amicus briefs in the appeal.  The groups supporting the ALJ’s opinion included such powerhouses as the Big Three Automakers.  Those urging the Board to find such agreements illegal included a group of 40 Freightliner employees, The Wackenhut Corporation, and three former NLRB members who prepared a brief submitted by seven Republican representatives.  The Board’s decision in this case could have far-reaching implications for unions who desperately need these agreements to circumvent the NLRB’s election process.

Teamsters Announce Card-Check/Neutrality Agreement with UPS Freight – On June 27, 2006, James Hoffa, Teamsters General President, announced that the union and UPS Freight (Overnight) have reached a card-check/neutrality agreement.  No specifics were given.  The Teamsters, which has been unable to convince a majority of Overnight’s employees to vote for the union in secret ballot elections, considered this agreement to be essential.  UPS has also agreed to the union’s demand for early negotiations for the 2008 National Master United Parcel Service Agreement.  Of key concern to the Teamsters is the protection of the retirement and healthcare provisions in the current contract.

Teamsters Convention Highlights Internal Strife – In his keynote address, James Hoffa attacked corporate America for its alleged greed, but meanwhile he himself is under attack from members within, who say that he and other union bosses have placed their own interests above those of rank-and-file members.

Teamsters seeking to continue union reforms, including those from Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), have attacked Hoffa for increasing union dues and office salaries, and for shrinking membership and cuts in member pensions.  TDU continues to snipe at the union’s officer salary structure by publishing its $100,000 Club report on its web site.  The current report lists 368 Teamsters officers who made more than $100,000 during 2004.  The TDU’s presidential candidate, Tom Leedham, who is expected to gain official nomination for his third run for the top office, is running on a slate that includes such issues as no dues increases without a membership vote, accountability for union benefit trustees, local union autonomy, reasonable compensation for International Union representatives, a membership Bill of Rights, and a right to have observers in national contract votes.  Leedham’s website can be accessed by clicking here.  The elections are scheduled for this fall.

Financial Records Cause Unions to Blush – For years, unions have been required to file financial disclosure forms, known as LM-2 forms, with the Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS).  In 2004, however, new reporting rules went into effect that require more detailed reporting about union income, expenses, accounts payable and receivables, and membership details.  The LM-2 filing deadline for fiscal year 2005 was March 31, 2006, and most major unions met this deadline.  The reports are disclosing union spending with a clarity that is disconcerting to many unions.  The OLMS has provided assistance to union officials to help them comply with the new rules, but they have also tried to inform the public about its access to this union information.  The agency’s public outreach efforts include a PowerPoint presentation on its Web site that demonstrates how to use the site to find specific information.  Moreover, the OLMS has even referred people to the Center for Union Facts, a distinctly anti-union organization.  Not surprisingly, the AFL-CIO does not like the OLMS’s public outreach program!

Company May Refuse to Provide Investigative Notes to Union, NLRB Says – After a unionized Indiana electric utility received a complaint from an employee that a supervisor had threatened him with violence, the company’s Labor Relations Manager conducted an investigation.  During the interviews, the Labor Relations Manager assured employees the interviews would be confidential.  When the employee and union were not satisfied with the company’s response to the supervisor’s conduct, a grievance was filed.  As a part of the grievance process, the union requested copies of “all notes, memos, summaries and conclusions from any meetings, discussions or conversations” relating to the employee’s allegation against the supervisor.  The company provided a list of names of the employees who were interviewed but refused to provide the interview notes, claiming they were confidential.  An ALJ had ruled in favor of the union, finding that the company violated sections 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA.

The NLRB, finding in favor of the company, noted that there are limited circumstances under which an employer may refuse to produce confidential information requested by a union.  First, the refusing party “must show that it has a legitimate and substantial interest in the information.”  Second, the Board then “must weigh the party’s interest in confidentiality against the requester’s need for the information, and the balance must favor the party asserting confidentiality.”  Finally, the party invoking confidentiality must “seek an accommodation that would allow the requester to obtain the information it needs while protecting the party’s interest in confidentiality.”

The Board noted that in a case of workplace harassment or threats of violence, an employer must be able to assure witnesses of confidentiality to be able to conduct an effective investigation.  The Board found that the company met its “accommodation” requirement by disclosing the identities of the witnesses and by offering to make those witnesses available to the union.  To read the full decision, click here.

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