The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld Executive Order 13201, requiring federal contractors to post notices advising employees of their rights not to join a union or pay agency fees for political or other non-representational activities. A similar order was issued by the former President Bush, but was rescinded by former President Clinton in 1992. The United Auto Workers and other labor groups had sought to have the current Executive Order by George W. Bush set aside. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation hailed the decision: "This ruling is a step toward informing employees they have the right not to be shaken down to pay for union political activities."
During a union election proceeding, a trucking employer was found by the NLRB to have violated the law and election rules by informing employees that if the Teamsters Union won the election, the wage increases promised in the contract with an independent union would be null and void, and that the company could not or would not pay future increases that had been negotiated. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with an NLRB decision holding that, although the contract was indeed "null and void" as a matter of contract law, the promise of the wage increases had become "terms and conditions of employment that could not be unilaterally changed after the incumbent union was ousted." Therefore, the statements that the raises could not be instituted if the Teamsters were elected were unlawful threats. The election won by the company was set aside and a new election ordered.
New approaches in organizing was the principal focus of a recent meeting of representatives of academia, labor and government in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, sponsored by the LBJ School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin, there appeared to be a consensus that normal organizing would not turn the tide of decline that has reduced union membership to about 13% of the workforce. Professor Richard Freeman of Harvard University noted that unions must organize some 500,000 new workers a year to maintain their present share and that the cost would be from $1,000 to $2,000 per new member. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka noted that for the past three years unions have organized 500,000 members per year but that last year there was a net loss of 73,000 members. He noted further that only 20% of the new members were organized through elections conducted by the NLRB. He blamed the "massive roadblock" of laws that failed to protect the rights of workers to join unions; the "onslaught" of right-to-work initiatives cropping up in more states; and the proposed "onerous" reporting requirements of the Labor Department that would cost unions big dollars. Peter Hurtgen, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, spoke of the need to improve relationships, saying that employers and labor "can no longer afford to be adversarial in a shrinking global economy." It was also the consensus of those present and speaking at the meeting that changes in labor laws were not likely to gain ground in the present political atmosphere.
Oklahoma remains a "right-to-work" state that prohibits the enforcement of union security clauses, but the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has invalidated certain provisions preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. The Court found that certain provisions in the amendments to the Oklahoma constitution -- prohibition of exclusive union hiring halls and dues checkoff agreements, and terms affecting union membership – were preempted. Even though the invalidated amendments appeared to be overreaching, we do not expect Oklahoma's status as a "right-to-work" state to change. The core provision in Oklahoma’s right-to-work law is that no employee shall be required to become or remain a member of a labor organization as a condition of employment or continued employment.
An employer's practice of installing hidden surveillance cameras on its premises is a mandatory subject of bargaining with the incumbent union. National Steel had more than 100 video cameras mounted in plain view for many years, and sometimes used hidden cameras to investigate suspected wrongdoing. The case before the NLRB and subsequently the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals involved installation of a hidden camera in a manager's office to determine who was making long distance telephone calls at night. The culprit was caught and discharged. The union demanded that National Steel bargain before installing any more cameras, and asserted that the union had not waived its right to bargain. The NLRB ordered bargaining for "a mutually satisfactory confidentiality agreement" that would balance the company's concerns for confidentiality as to the location and use of such cameras and the union's need for information. The Court of Appeals upheld the NLRB order, which "does not mandate an outcome of negotiations." The National Labor Relations Act requires bargaining in good faith, but agreement is not required.