Man Bites Dog
By David S Farkas
We in the legal media have an unlucky job. It is our unhappy task to inform our readership of important decisions that could affect employers. Often the decisions we must report are negative. Thus, past articles in this space have spoken of this employer’s practice found illegal, or that employer’s system impermissible, etc. A great deal of these cases have revolved around hiring practices. That is, since employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals because of their union or non-union membership, the Labor Board has found numerous instances of prohibited employer activity.
As stated, when one’s hiring practice is deemed illegal, it is almost without question a decision against the employer. It is with a historic sense of irony then, and no small measure of amusement, that we report on the following: The Labor Board recently found a union’s referring practice as discriminatory!
The case began when members of an IBEW local in Oregon filed a charge with the Board, complaining that the union was not following established rules for job referrals from hiring halls. The union had apparently been favoring “salts,” who worked to organize merit shop contractors, by giving them preferential referrals. The Board found that the IBEW illegally steered work to employees who engaged in union organizing, to the disadvantage of those who did not.
Nor did the NLRB stop at declaring such favoritism illegal. The NLRB also found that the union had engaged in a host of illegal practices, including returning “stripped” employees out of referral order to newly organized contractors. The NLRB decision orders the union to pay back-pay to every member who was disadvantaged by the discriminatory referral process. As charges were first filed with the NLRB as early as 1994, the amount owed by the union could be very substantial, particularly with the accrual of interest.
Labor concerns or questions? Alan Ross and David Farkas are standing by.