President Bush has announced his choices for members of the National Labor Relations Board, reflecting an agreement with Senate Democrats and organized labor. Management attorney Robert J. Battista will become the new NLRB Chairman and labor arbitrator Peter C. Schaumber will become another Republican member, along with Republican R. Alex Acosta, who presently works in the Justice Department. These nominations will be coupled with a second term for current Democrat members Wilma Liebman and Dennis P. Walsh, the latter a former union attorney who is serving a recess appointment. The package has the support of the Teamsters Union, and will not be opposed by the AFL-CIO. Present Chairman Peter J. Hurtgen is to become the new director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Illegal workers are not entitled to back pay, even when their firing constitutes an unfair labor practice, according to the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman v. Plastic Compounds, Inc. In that case, the NLRB and the full District of Columbia Circuit had ruled that a Mexican worker fired for union organizing activity was entitled to back pay from the date of his illegal firing to the date that the company learned that he was an illegal worker. The opinion by Chief Justice Rehnquist reversing that ruling holds that such a practice would "encourage the successful evasion of apprehension by immigration authorities, condone prior violations of the immigration laws, and encourage future violations." His opinion was joined by Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas.
The NLRB's liberal back pay award to a union "salt" has been set aside by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The individual in question was an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who was denied a job as an electrician, which the Board ruled was an unfair labor practice. Two and a half years later, the individual was hired, but he voluntarily quit after only five weeks on the job. The NLRB awarded him back pay for the entire two and a half years that preceded his hiring.. The fact that the organizer left his job with the electrical contractor "when it no longer served the union's organizational interest" was strong evidence that the organizer would not have lasted for any longer than the five week period, the Court reasoned, and surely not for the two and one-half years reflected by the back pay award; thus, the back pay award "serves a punitive rather than compensatory function." _ Collective bargaining settlements so far in 2002 have averaged 4.2%, compared with 4% in the comparable period for 2001. The Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W) increased 0.6% in April, the largest increase in more than a year; however, the percentage change from April 2001 is only 1.3%.
A general "no strike" clause in a collective bargaining agreement does not bar a union from engaging in sympathy strikes on behalf of other unions Employers who negotiate labor agreements must be specific in their language. The Ninth Circuit's opinion has this to say regarding a California hospital and its dispute with the the California Nurses Association: "We reaffirm that for a union to waive the [National Labor Relations Act's] Section 7 right to engage in a sympathy strike, the waiver must be clear and unmistakable so that the membership will be on notice that this important collective bargaining right is being bargained away."
Organizing costs are among those chargeable to non-members of unions whose agreements have union-security clauses, according to the full Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Communication Workers of America v. Beck, held that in those states that allow "union-shop" agreements, employees who choose not to become union members will have to pay only their share of union expenditures that are "germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment." The judges of the Ninth Circuit agreed with the NLRB that organizing costs are included because wage levels of union-represented employees have a direct relationship to the level of organization of employers in the same competitive markets.