Union’s Promise of Referrals, Not Worker Quits, Doom IBEW Win
(Ed. Note – The following article appeared in the March 20, 2006 edition of the Labor Relations Reporter of the Bureau of National Affairs, an influential publication for union and management attorneys. The employer was represented by Ross, Brittain & Schonberg Co. LPA, along with Maury Baskin, general counsel for Associated Builders & Contractors Inc.)
An International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers election win among an Ohio contractor’s employees was invalidated by the union’s offer of apprenticeship referrals, but the fact that employees quit right after the election would not have relieved the employer of its duty to bargain, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled March 7 (King Elec. v. NLRB, 179 LRRM 2129, D.C. Cir., No. 04-1440, 3/7/06).
Overturning an NLRB order that King Electric Inc. bargain with IBEW Local 8 as the exclusive representative of its employees, the appeals court found that an NLRB hearing officer erred in not considering whether employees’ post-election acceptance of apprenticeship referrals supported the company’s claim that the union had engaged in objectionable pre-election conduct. King alleged that the union during the election campaign promised the employees referrals to higher paying jobs with employers that had signed a joint apprenticeship agreement.
No NLRB policy bars consideration of such post-election conduct, the court said, finding that the hearing officer erred in refusing to consider it. The hearing officer’s finding that the apprenticeship referrals were contingent only on a majority of King employees signing union authorization cards was not supported by substantial evidence, the court held. However, the fact that six of the employer’s ten workers quit the day after the election to accept these referrals did not in itself constitute “unusual circumstances” invalidating King’s duty to bargain since there was no fundamental change to the bargaining unit, the court found.