Supreme Court Whiplash: What’s Ahead for Corporate Labor

Supreme Court: Corporate Labor RelationsThe animosity between political parties has been pronounced over the past decade, and many of the policies established by Democratic President Obama have been hotly contested by the Republican-dominated Congress. This kept Human Resources professionals in a constant state of confusion, as laws related to employment, labor and benefits were passed and rescinded. Additional pushback from the courts added to the uncertainty, with the Supreme Court reversing some of the President’s decisions.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

One of the most notable Supreme Court decisions came from the 2014 case National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Noel Canning. This case started as a dispute between Noel Canning, a Washington State Pepsi bottling firm, and the Teamsters – the NLRB found that Noel Canning’s refusal to enter into a collective bargaining agreement was illegal. However, Noel Canning appealed this decision all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that three of the NLRB members had been unlawfully appointed by President Obama. The Supreme Court sided with Noel Canning, holding that the President’s power to make recess appointments is strictly limited.

The issue of recess appointments appeared again in 2016 after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Continued acrimony between the President and Congress prevented the appointment of a replacement, and President Obama opted out of another attempt at a recess appointment.

As a result, the Court’s even number of votes tied on key labor issues, such as the ability of public sector unions to collect agency fees from workers who are included in the bargaining unit but do not wish to belong to the union. The 4 – 4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (2016) ensured such unions can continue collecting fees – a relief for unions, who were concerned that an additional conservative vote would prohibit compulsory agency fees.

A Conservative Supreme Court

The election of President Trump and a Republican Congressional majority suggest that a ninth Supreme Court Justice is likely to be on the bench soon, and President Trump’s selection is a conservative, as expected. Federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch is currently under consideration, and if confirmed, could add the deciding vote to cases currently splitting the court 4 – 4.

A new member of the Supreme Court has broad implications for labor and employment law, ranging from the future of union organizing to the handling of health and retirement benefits. Businesses in favor of union avoidance believe they will find a friend in Judge Gorsuch when it comes to weakening organized labor.

Experts have hinted that certain issues are very likely to be brought before President Trump’s Supreme Court. For example, the issue of public sector agency fees may be brought up again, and some experts believe that the subject private sector agency fees will also be litigated in the near future. A decision to prohibit the compulsory agency in either the public or private sectors (or both) would weaken unions significantly.

Arbitration requirements are another topic of contention between employers and unions, with employers asserting their right to require individual workers to participate in arbitration of disputes. This dispute resolution process is instead of the union grievance process, not in addition to the existing union procedure. If employers’ right to enforce arbitration requirements is upheld by the Supreme Court, organized labor would suffer a serious setback.

The selection of Judge Gorsuch may not be President Trump’s only contribution to the Supreme Court. Over the next four to eight years, he may have the opportunity to make multiple appointments, which could dramatically change the future of employment law. Given the unpredictable nature of this administration, the best advice is simply to wait and see what happens. Here at UnionProof, we encourage you to use this time wisely,  to develop a corporate philosophy on unions, if you don’t already have one, and to educate employees, train managers and build a strategy to become or remain union-free.

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How Right-to-Work Laws Benefit Both Workers and Their Companies

Right To Work Laws

With national right-to-work legislation introduced by Republican lawmakers, many people want to know how right-to-work laws could affect their lives. Currently, there are 28 states that don’t allow compulsory union membership, requiring workers to pay union dues. Missouri became the most recent state to adopt right-to-work laws in February, and polling suggests that most workers approve of eliminating union membership as a condition of employment.

While people against these right-to-work laws argue it encourages “free riders” in union workplaces, there are definite advantages for workers and companies who live in right-to-work states.

Right-to-Work Laws Encourage Economic Growth

Right-to-work proponents believe that these laws improve economic growth and allow workplaces to remain competitive in a global economy. Both companies and workers benefit from a better economy, as wages and corporate earnings increase. Studies have found that right-to-work laws increased manufacturing employment by approximately 30 percent. Many state legislatures have passed right-to-work laws in the hope of attracting new business to their state.

Critics have stated that determining how right-to-work policies truly affect a state’s economy is difficult. They point to differences in state infrastructure and policies independent of right-to-work laws that may affect employment numbers. However, many of the states with the strongest economies are also right-to-work states.

Laws Exempt Workers From Forced Union Membership

Many unions collect $500 to $1,000 in dues per year from each worker. Without right-to-work laws, a worker may have to join the union at their workplace or find a different job. In non-right-to-work states, once 51 percent of the voting workforce votes to unionize, ALL workers must join the union and pay dues as a condition of continued employment.

Right-to-work laws allow workers to choose whether or not union membership makes financial sense for their individual goals. Some unions are also tied to political causes that an individual worker may feel uncomfortable supporting. Without compulsory union membership, companies can hire workers who aren’t interested in union membership.

Right To Work Video

Right-to-Work Laws Force Unions to Work for Membership

Some right-to-work supporters argue that these laws can actually lead to stronger unions over time. By forcing the union to show constant value for their union fees, unions become proactive in addressing worker concerns. These laws also allow workers to leave the union, if they feel that the organization is no longer meeting their needs.

Unions can flourish in right-to-work states. In Las Vegas, the Culinary 226 union represents nearly 100 percent of the workforce, composed of hotel housekeepers, all paying union dues. However, there is also evidence that right-to-work laws weaken unions, as some workers decide not to pay dues.

Companies Consider Right-to-Work Laws When Determining Where to Locate

Proponents of right-to-work laws say that companies often consider these rules when deciding where to locate their facilities. Unions are more common in states without right-to-work laws because union organizing is more profitable. Therefore, for companies that prefer to avoid unions, locating in a right-to-work state reduces the chance that a union will organize. If more companies become established in right-to-work states, workers have more choices when looking for work and more companies competing for their skills.

As right-to-work laws become more popular, it’s important for workers and management to understand how they could potentially impact their workplace. Communication during this time is key, for both managers and employees, and UnionProof can be a valuable resource for educating managers and informing your work force of how those laws will affect them. Of course, even if a federal right-to-work law is enacted, union membership may still flourish in some areas — but companies and their employees may find distinct advantages to remaining independent, once union membership becomes optional.

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Why Top Companies Stay Ahead of Online Messaging (And You Should, Too)

Unions have stepped up their recruitment and communication efforts, thanks to technology. That’s an issue if you’re trying to stay union-free but lack in your tech game. So today we’re talking about five reasons to stay ahead of union organizing, and offering a few ways to do just that.

  1. Convert enlistment.

Technological advancement has extended our reach and our ability to connect with new prospects across nearly every industry. Technology is now being utilized by tech-savvy unions to enlist new dues-paying members. While your company may not see union organization in a traditional sense, it doesn’t mean that it’s not taking place on a digital platform right in the hands of your employees. Unions, such as the Communication Workers of America and the International Association of Machinists, use technology to connect with employees and get into the minds of your workers. However, if you stay ahead of union tactics and become aware of the technology tools they use to get organizing started “underground,” you can prevent this issue and even convert their those who would have been union supporters to adopt the company’s UnionProof culture.

2. Circumvent improper use of company technology.

One of the many strategies that tech-savvy unions are utilizing is encouraging workers to report work violations while at work but on their own time. While they may be doing this during a lunch break or before or after work, they can be using company property – computers and mobile devices – to carry out union-related tasks. This strategy allows the unions to be present in the mindset of the employee without entering the property. At the same time, it also carries an unethical undertone by “playing unfairly” to use your own devices against your company. So talk with employees about this, encourage them to use their voice – not the company’s property – to make change happen at your company.

3. Strengthen the Employee-Employer Relationship

Speaking of company-provided resources, make sure your employees aren’t left in the dark without the right tools to get their jobs done or any avenue to communicate their needs. When employees perceive a lack of support, it immediately weakens their relationship with management. As a smart employer, you can use technology to gain insight on how you’re doing and see if you are giving your employees the benefits or assistance they need. You can accomplish this by using virtual suggestion boxes and social polling techniques. Cloud computing and big data analytics can be a gateway to strengthen your employer-employee relationship because they offer a way to store and analyze employee feedback from polls and suggestion boxes.

4. Quick Communication

Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have now become the new news source. Use of social media crosses generations not just because it seems “cool,” but because it’s quick and easy to use. Tech-savvy unions are aware of this and use social media as a quick way to communicate with union members and even encourage them to post their disputes to public forums. However, if you create your own online community using these platforms, you can quickly communicate changes in the company and demonstrate transparency to build trust and a stronger bond with your employees. You can also use social media as a way to support professional networks created at work.

5. Spreading Knowledge

Technology has opened doors for many to have access to news and educational resources, which were virtually impossible before. Tech-savvy unions understand this and use technology to offer educational resources to their union members as a benefit. However, if you offer these services to your employees, you can demonstrate the greater value there is in using the company’s educational tools.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to union-proof your company.

You can encourage a UnionProof culture by embracing technology, by educating management and by engaging forward-thinking resources, like the Union Proof team at Projections when communicating with your workforce. With the right resources at your fingertips, you can stay ahead of tech-savvy unions while demonstrating transparency and building trust with your employees.

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