Posts tagged with "NLRB"

Employers no longer can ‘mute’ departing workers

March 15, 2023

For years, companies have been able to demand that laid-off employees agree to stay quiet about their employment in exchange for getting their severance. They are now free to say what they want, reports Inc. magazine.

On February 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned a 2020 ruling that allowed employers to make confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses a binding part of severance agreements. Companies no longer can ask departing employees to stay quiet about the terms of their departure, and the terms of their employment, with third parties, in order to get severance.

In the 3-1 decision, the board concluded that asking for such silence deters employees from exercising their statutory rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB’s decision applies to substantially all private-sector employers except for airlines, railroads, and other companies covered by the Railway Labor Act, notes Robert Nagle, co-chair of the Labor Management Relations Practice at Philadelphia-based law firm Fox Rothschild.

The ruling doesn’t apply to those with Section 7 rights (which, under the NLRA, allows employees the right to collectively band together to improve workplace conditions) such as independent contractors, managers, most supervisors, and public service employees.

It does not appear that the board’s decision will retroactively invalidate severance agreements entered into before its recent decision. However, it is possible that the board could deem any current attempt to enforce such provisions as constituting a violation of the NLRA.

There may be some workarounds for employers, notes Jessica Roe, labor and employment attorney at Minneapolis-based Roe Law Group. For example, an employer can include a disclaimer in its agreements regarding Section 7 rights such as “Nothing in this agreement is meant in any way to inhibit or restrict your Section 7 rights under the NLRA.” In other words, such agreements may still be possible if employees know and understand their rights prior to signing.

But a disclaimer, alone, she notes, is not likely to be enough. Employers will need to ensure that their provisions on non-disparagement and confidentiality related to the agreement are narrow and us the language directed by the NLRB in this recent decision. She recommends business owners who’ve used non-disparagement agreements in the past to work with counsel to carefully craft appropriate language.

“There should be a concerted effort to take a look at these agreements and make adjustments, at the least,” says Roe. Especially because it’s possible that the board might still view such language as impermissible.

Multiple sources also note that it’s very likely that the February 21 ruling will be appealed, and it is uncertain whether the decision can ultimately survive legal scrutiny.

It is also likely that this rule on severance agreements may shift back to prior board precedent, once again, if and when there is a Republican administration in Washington in 2024, notes Michael Schmidt, vice chair of the labor and employment department at law firm Cozen O’Connor.

In addition, it does not appear that the board’s decision will retroactively invalidate severance agreements entered into before the February 21 decision, says Schmidt.

However, it is possible that the board could deem any post-February 21 attempt to enforce such provisions as constituting a violation of the NLRA.

In the meantime, if the board determines that a particular severance agreement or larger policy with respect to a severance agreement violates the NLRA, the employer can be cited for an “unfair labor practice,” which subjects the company to certain monetary and injunctive remedies, notes Schmidt. The easiest way to avoid such citations all together, he adds, is to ditch the clauses.

Research contact: @Inc

Baltimore Apple Store workers approve company’s first U.S. union

June 21, 2022

Apple workers in the Baltimore area voted to join a union on Saturday, June 18—becoming the first of the tech giant’s U.S. retail stores to do so, reports The Washington Post.

The vote means workers at the Towson, Maryland, store plan to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) once a contract is ratified. Saturday evening’s vote count was 65 to 33—a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Last month, the workers and IAM sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, outlining their intent to organize as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees — or AppleCore for short.

This vote is part of an organizing wave sweeping the nation—as workers increasingly band together to demand higher pay, better benefits, and more negotiating leverage with their employers during the pandemic. In New York, the first Amazon warehouse voted to form a union in the spring. Dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have unionized

Billy Jarboe, a Towson Apple employee and union organizer, told the Post that Apple’s campaign to undermine the organizing effort “definitely shook people” but that most union backers stayed strong.

“It just feels good to go into a new era of this kind of work, hopefully it creates a spark [and] the other stores can use this momentum,” Jarboe said in a text after the vote concluded on Saturday.

Three Apple employees said the union drive lost some supporters amid a corporate campaign to persuade workers not to organize.

“They got a lot of people to waver … they definitely pulled some people that we thought were originally supporters,” said Eric Brown, who works at the Towson Apple store.

Brown said they were able to overcome those tactics because organizers from an aborted campaign in Atlanta primed them on what to expect. “They let us know what some of the talking points and tactics were going to be, and we were able to let people know some of the things they may try,” he said.

Apple spokesman Josh Lipton declined to comment after the vote.

About 20 Apple workers came to the Towson Town Center on Saturday night, some of whom were in the room during the vote count.

Afterward, IAM spokesperson DeLane Adams said, the group went to the center’s parking garage, clapping and celebrating with members of the IAM who were in attendance.

“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said in a statement after the vote. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.”

Workers in at least two other Apple Store locations are trying to organize, including at a store in New York; and at one in Atlanta, which became the first location where workers filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board.

But the Communications Workers of America withdrew its request for an election there last month, saying in a statement that Apple’s “repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act have made a free and fair election impossible.”

At the time, the organizing group sent a message to workers at the store, saying it would reset and “continue this fight.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Controversy: Starbucks fires union leaders In Memphis

February 10, 2022

Starbucks has fired several workers in Memphis, Tennessee, who were part of the growing unionization effort that’s spreading quickly throughout the coffee chain, reports HuffPost.

The campaign, Starbucks Workers Unitedsaid on February 8 on Twitter that the company had canned “virtually the entire union leadership in Memphis”—calling it a case of retaliation for their union support. The group said the total number of firings came to seven, or about one-third of the workers at the store.

“The arc of Starbucks’ union-busting is long, but it bends toward losing,” the campaign wrote.

Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesperson, said the company did not fire workers for organizing, but for violating safety and security protocols. He said workers opened the locked store after close of business without permission and let nonemployees in.

Several workers recently gave MWC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Memphis, an in-store interview about the union campaign.

Richard Bensinger, a longtime organizer involved in the Starbucks campaign, said on Twitter that the workers were fired “for talking to local TV reporters in their store!”

Borges said he wanted to make it “unequivocally clear” that the company didn’t fire the workers for talking to the media. “To suggest that is to completely ignore the clear violations of known policies that these partners openly acknowledged they were aware of as part of this investigation,” he said in an email.

But Nikki Taylor, a shift supervisor at the store, said in a statement through the union that she was “fired by Starbucks today for ‘policies’ that I’ve never heard of before.” She called the firing a “clear attempt by Starbucks to retaliate.”

The Starbucks workers have been organizing with the union Workers United, which plans to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the firings. The union would argue that the workers were illegally targeted because of their union support.

In a statement, Starbucks Workers United called the firings the “most blatant act of union-busting yet.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Starbucks workers at Buffalo, New York-area store vote in favor of unionizing

December 13, 2021

Baristas at a Starbucks  cafe in Buffalo, New York, have voted to form the first labor union at one of the coffee giant’s own U.S. locations in its 50-year history, as workers across the country push companies for better pay and benefits in a tight labor market, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The result is a victory for cafe workers, who petitioned in August to vote on forming a union to have a direct channel of negotiation with the company—and a blow to Starbucks, which spent months appealing to Buffalo-area baristas to vote down a labor body.

“We’ve done it, despite everything the company has thrown at us,” said Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo Starbucks barista who works at the store that voted to unionize and who helped organize the campaign, called Starbucks Workers United.

In the three separate store elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday, December 9,  the federal body said that one store voted for unionizing, one voted against it, and results in the third weren’t conclusive. The labor board said it will review challenges from both sides in that store election.

Pro-union workers said they would immediately push the company to bargain with them over the issue of pay and other matters. Union leaders said they intended to challenge the results of the second store’s vote against unionizing, citing ballot irregularities.

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges pointed to the election’s split results and said the company values all of its workers. “We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can deliver for every partner and our customers,” he said.

Some other unions Thursday pointed to the victory as a sign of the growing power of labor advocacy in the U.S. In September, popular support for unions hit a high last documented in 1965, according to Gallup.

Research contact: @WSJ