By:  Howard M. Wexler, Esq.

While it is a daily occurrence for an employer to get blasted in the media for supposedly engaging in so called “union busting,” a recent case before the National Labor Relations Board shows that some of our friends on the other side of the bargaining table are jealous of the spot light and want to get in on the action.

 On May 18, 2012, the Federation of Agents and International Representatives (FAIR) filed an unfair labor practice charge with Region 5 of the NLRB (Case No. 05-CA-081309) against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“Teamsters”) alleging violations of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act due to alleged coercive statements (e.g. threats, promises of benefits, etc.) and alleged coercive actions (surveillance, etc.) in connection with FAIR’s efforts to organize certain full-time International Organizers employed by the Teamsters. 

Under Section 8(a)(1) of the Act, it is an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in”  Section 7 of the Act.  Accordingly, Section 7 guarantees employees, among other things, the right to “self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations” and to engage in “other concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  Id.  If a right guaranteed by Section 7 is implicated, a Section 8(a)(1) violation is established only if under all the circumstances, the employer’s conduct may reasonably tend to coerce or intimidate employees. Here, FAIR alleged that the Teamsters, in violation of the Act, engaged in certain conduct designed to intimidate these International Organizers and hinder FAIR’s efforts to become their exclusive bargaining representative. 

As part of an overall settlement entered into between the Teamsters and FAIR, the Teamsters recently agreed to post notices in “prominent places in the Employer’s Washington D.C. facility for 60 consecutive days from the date of the posting” confirming that they will not violate the Act in the manner in which FAIR alleged in the ULP Charge.  In a scene fans of the television show the Simpsons will recognize from the opening credits when Bart admits his transgressions on a chalkboard, the notice that the Teamsters agreed to post as part of this settlement with FAIR states the following:

WE WILL NOT do anything to prevent you from exercising the above rights.

WE WILL NOT tell employees they cannot wear pins in support of the Federation of Agents and International Representatives (FAIR),

WE WILL NOT tell employees that we will refuse to negotiate with Federation of Agents and International Representatives (FAIR), if employees select them as their collective-bargaining representative

WE WILL NOT tell employees they would no longer be able to be members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, if the Federation of Agents and International Representatives (FAIR), won an election.

WE WILL NOT tell employees they would be laid-off, if the Federation of Agents and International Representatives (FAIR) won an NLRB election

WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner interfere with your rights under Section 7 of the Act.

Given the continued steady decline in unionization rates, employers must be mindful that unions will continue to be aggressive in defending their turf as well as picking up new members in those industries where they believe they make inroads – which, as this case demonstrates, include unions themselves.