Republicans are cheering victories in Senate elections, which will result in Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) replacing Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) as chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the next Congress. Former Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole, now the Republican Senator-Elect from North Carolina, is expected to become a committee member. President Bush's nominations for judicial, NLRB and Department of Labor vacancies are now to be acted upon. Kennedy's staff expects legislation under the Committee's purview to become "skewed more toward business than labor." Revisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act will be explored by the Committee. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Donohue said that voters had elected a Congress "… that will keep taxes low, rein in trial lawyers and improve opportunities for U.S. businesses around the world."
The frequency of NLRB injunctions for interim relief from the courts in pending unfair labor practice cases has declined sharply under a Republican administration. During a 15-month period from June 2001 through August 2002, only 15 cases were authorized by the Board pursuant to applications by Bush-appointed General Counsel Arthur Rosenfeld. Former General Counsel Paige received authorization from the Board in 70 cases during a shorter period, September 1999 through September 2000, and during a prior 34-month period the Board authorized such action in 164 cases. The recent injunction authorizations involved employer interference with organizing campaigns, withdrawal of recognition from an incumbent union, illegal conduct during bargaining, recognizing a minority union, and a successor employer's refusal to bargain with an incumbent union.
Employees covered by some collective bargaining agreements may be required to pay for the costs of organizing employees of other companies in the same "competitive market." This seeming contradiction is the result of a 1999 ruling by the NLRB that was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and has now been denied Supreme Court review. It springs from an earlier Supreme Court decision in Communications Workers of America v. Beck, which allowed employees who objected to being union members but covered by "union security" clauses requiring membership, to pay "agency fees" to cover costs of union activities that related to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. The NLRB decided that "at least with respect to organizing within the same competitive market as the bargaining unit employer," organizing is related to collective bargaining. An earlier decision which arose under the Railway Labor Act found that the union could not charge objecting non-members for a cost associated with attempting to convince them that they should join. The efforts of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc. were not successful in persuading the Supreme Court to accept the instant case for review.
The Teamsters Union has officially abandoned its strike against Overnite Transportation Company, lamely accusing the NLRB and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for failing to enforce workers' rights. The strike was called in October 1999 and involved less than 10% of Overnite's employees at a time when the Union claimed to represent employees at 26 of more than 160 Overnite terminals around the country. Hundreds of bargaining sessions between the parties since the organizing campaign began in 1994 have not resulted in a contract, and the NLRB found that Overnite had not bargained in bad faith as charged. An earlier NLRB decision that would have provided $3 million in back pay was denied enforcement by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, clearing the way for decertification elections at several Overnite facilities, which the Teamsters lost by overwhelming margins.
The principle that a dues-checkoff authorization expires with the collective bargaining agreement was recently challenged by liberally-inclined judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When two Las Vegas casinos stopped payroll deductions for union dues when the contract expired, the union complained that there had been a "unilateral change" in employment conditions without bargaining. The NLRB's Administrative Law Judge had dismissed the cases, finding that the contractual language indicated that the checkoff provisions expired when the contract expired -- remaining in effect only "for the term of the agreement." The Ninth Circuit has directed the NLRB to provide a more "reasoned explanation" as to why its ruling was based on "well-established precedent."