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News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
Poultry Processing & Slaughter / Broilers & Layers
on November 29, 2011
POULTRY'S PERCH

Obama Administration and NLRB: Advocates for unionization

Aggressive support for unions by the Obama Administration and National Labor Relations Board is changing the landscape of labor relations within the poultry and egg industries.

Since President Obama’s election and his recess appointment of two pro-labor advocates to the National Labor Relations Board, a number of pro-labor initiatives have been presented as proposed legislation or regulation. Most recently, a proposed rule by the NLRB shortens the time frame for union election campaigns to as little as 10 days from the filing of a Notice of Hearing.

‘Card check’ would have ended secret elections  

The most egregious of the legislative initiatives was the March 10, 2009, re-introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act. Among other issues, the EFCA, also known as “card check,” would have allowed a union to be certified as the official union to bargain with an employer if union officials collect signatures of a majority of workers. The bill would have removed the present right of the employer to demand an additional, separate secret ballot vote and may have led to coercion and intimidation of employees to sign an authorization card.

In addition, the bill would require mandatory arbitration if the parties were unable to agree on the terms of a collective bargaining agreement within 120 days following certification of the union. Fortunately, this bill did not have enough support to pass the 60-vote, super-majority requirement in the Senate and has not been enacted.

 NLRB requires pro-union posters  

In the past year, the NLRB proposed two regulations that will benefit union efforts to organize employees. On December 22, 2010, a new requirement for a workplace poster, advising employees of their right to organize, was proposed. Despite considerable opposition from business -- including a February 16 comment letter from USPOULTRY, the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation (see Position Papers at www.poultryegg.org) arguing that the poster notice exceeds NLRB’s authority and the proposed language in the poster is heavily slanted toward the pro-union view -- the poster requirement is scheduled to become effective January 31, 2012.

Quick elections now proposed  

More troubling is the proposed rule governing representation procedures issued by the NLRB on June 22. This rule shortens the time frame for union election campaigns to as little as 10 days from the filing of a Notice of Hearing, which may be the first indication to the employer that a union has sufficient support to request a representation election. The proposed rule also limits pre-election determination of the eligible voter pool, often a matter of contention with respect to supervisors and lead persons, to the extent that disputes involving up to 20% of the electorate do not have to be resolved prior to the election. Concerns over a lack of due process, unrealistic burdens placed on the employers and an expected increase in litigation compared to the current representation procedures led USPOULTRY, NCC and NTF to file comments opposing the proposed regulations on August 22, a copy of which is also available on the USPOULTRY website.

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