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union kNOw – November 2018

By Philip B. Rosen, Jonathan J. Spitz and Howard M. Bloom
  • November 15, 2018

Labor Board Employees Protest Board Chairman Ring, General Counsel Robb

Employees of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have publicly protested a decision by NLRB Chairman John Ring and NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb to reopen labor contracts covering employees’ terms and conditions of employment, according to media reports.

The protest, which included leafleting, took place outside the American Bar Association’s 12th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference attended by Ring and Robb. The leaflets noted that in 2018, employee confidence in the NLRB had dropped significantly. The leaflets also stated that Ring and Robb had “engaged in a systematic attack on” NLRB employees and “the agency as a whole.”

The employees who protested are members of the NLRB Professional Association, a union that represents the Board’s employees at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Ring Loves Rules

At the same American Bar Association conference, Ring extolled the virtues of rulemaking and suggested its use by the Board in connection with several issues, including union/employee access to employer property, according to the publication HR Dive.

Of rulemaking, Ring reportedly told the attendees, “I think [it] allows us to address areas of the law in a more holistic way.” He noted that he plans to look at complicated areas as possible candidates for regulation.

NLRB Member Lauren McFerran disagreed with Ring that rulemaking can be widely used. In particular, she said she is not convinced that rulemaking is appropriate in determining whether joint-employer status exists because “joint employment is just so fact-bound” and, therefore, it is “difficult … to … make broad proclamations.” On the other hand, McFerran believes that regulating employer email rules through rulemaking might be appropriate.

What’s Good for the Goose?

In “Is Big Labor Anti-Worker?,” the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal stated that hourly employees working for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) are being treated unfairly. The editorial concluded that Richard Trumka and Mary Kay Henry, the respective leaders of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, are hypocritical.

According to the editorial, apparently, while these union leaders are accusing companies of not sharing their wealth with employees, the AFL-CIO wants to freeze its own employees’ pay for three years and reduce sick leave, and the SEIU has not given its employees a wage increase in two years or a cost-of-living increase in their pension fund. In the end, the editorial stated, “We leave it to the OPEIU and its union employers to sort out their contracts, but perhaps the labor chiefs could start by treating their own workers with more dignity.”

Teamsters New England Pension Fund Severely Underfunded

The New England Teamsters’ pension fund is $5.1 billion underfunded, according to The Boston Globe, citing a study of the latest annual financial reports filed with regulators by multiemployer plans conducted by pension consulting firm Cheiron, Inc.

The New England Teamsters’ pension plan covers more than 72,000 truck drivers and warehouse workers represented by the New England Teamsters union across many employers. According to the study, only one other United States multiemployer pension plan is more underfunded than the New England Teamsters’ plan — the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Plan, which reportedly has an underfunded liability of $22.9 billion.

Citing the Cheiron study, the Globe reported that, across the United States, 121 multiemployer plans covering 1.3 million employees are underfunded by a total of $48.9 billion. Those plans have told regulators they may become insolvent within 20 years. Cheiron said that “a combination of factors led to the financial crisis of multiemployer pension plans — the downturn of the stock market during the Great Recession, declining industries resulting in fewer active participants, and employers exiting the plans either through bankruptcy or by withdrawing from the plans, leaving the remaining employers responsible for the unfunded liabilities.”

Please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney with any questions about the NLRB and labor relations.

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