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“Pall” Over Current Events; Trumpian FLRA & NLRB Developments; Sanders Campaign Recognizes Staff Union In Historic First; GM/UAW Plant Closure Litigation; Green Jobs Challenge

General “Pall” Over Current Events…

Orwellian world and local events have rendered me “silent” for some time (since prior to the New Year), what with children separated from their parents at the border, government shutdown 12/22/18-1/25/19, Mattis’s resignation, Mnuchin’s decision to lift sanctions on companies associated with oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and news about Moscow Trump Tower negotiations ongoing through the campaign period.

Labor/Employment Events-1st Quarter 2019

From a narrower labor/employment law perspective, the first quarter of 2019 has seen continued dysfunction at the Federal Labor Relations Authority where the Authority has lacked a Senate-approved General Counsel for over two years, hence, there is no one to approve the filing of investigator-approved unfair labor practice complaints which have cumulated to more than 6500 pending, one of the more recent on behalf of the AFGE against the Department of Education for union-busting efforts including refusal to bargain (this amidst other Trump Administration efforts to curb government worker organizing rights).  As to private sector labor law, the current National Labor Relations Board Chair, management-side labor attorney John Ring has been considering subcontracting the traditional work of NLRB staff to subcontractors, such as review of public comments on the Board’s proposed new joint employer rule (notwithstanding ongoing reduction of NLRB employee compensation and downsizing actions and certainly giving rise to conflict of interest concerns as well as questions as to which contractor could possibly possess staff of expertise equivalent to the staff of the NLRB).

Nonetheless Noteworthy…

Notwithstanding the foregoing “pall” over discussion of current events, two recent reports inspire comment.  First, in contrast to the above national labor news, the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign has announced it is recognizing a staff union, a local of the UFCW, a first in the history of U.S. presidential campaigns (teasing other candidates, including Julian Castro, to chime in that their campaigns also would support a union should staff choose to form one.

And in late February the United Auto Workers Union filed suit against General Motors seeking an order that the company rescind its decision to close three facilities—in Lordstown, Ohio, White Marsh, Maryland and Warren, Michigan.  The Company’s announced decision was the one to which Trump responded with a tweet, particularly as to the Lordstown plant, that “he wanted the plant opened or sold to a company that will open it up fast.”  The UAW contends that GM’s decision (it uses the terminology that it will “unallocated” the three plants) violates the parties’ 2015 collective bargaining agreement which forbids plant closure (or sale) “unless conditions arise outside the control of the company.”  This contract expires in September.  Under NLRB “successorship” doctrine, the purchase of the plant could obligate the buyer to recognize and bargain with the union were the plant to continue car production and employ a majority of workers from the bargaining unit.  It has been hazarded that the most likely buyer would be a European automaker, but for the fact that past attempts to organize foreign carmakers’ U.S. operations have encountered fierce management opposition.

Campaign for Green Jobs

And in an unfortunate confluence of recent events the AFL-CIO has come out in opposition to the Green New Deal, notwithstanding its obvious urgency, aspirational character and express pledge to foster union jobs and organizing rights.  This seems an excellent example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”  As Liam Cain, a wildland firefighter and former worker in the extractive fossil fuel industry commented in an interview published in yesterday’s In These Times, “What It Will Take to Build Union Support for the Green New Deal-Despite the AFL-CIO,” “I have a lot of empathy for these workers doing these jobs that are actively pulling sand out of the hour glass of human life on this planet….but…very little love for the figureheads at the top of building and trade unions.” Cain further explained, “If we believe this labor movement stuff we talk about, that an injury to one is an injury to all, we need to recognize this industry if perpetuating harms against our peers, our neighbors, other working stiffs in other places.”   A better focus for Labor might be making real the slogan, “Green Jobs for All.”

General “Pall” Over Current Events…

Orwellian world and local events have rendered me “silent” for some time (since prior to the New Year), what with children separated from their parents at the border, government shutdown 12/22/18-1/25/19, Mattis’s resignation, Mnuchin’s decision to lift sanctions on companies associated with oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and news about Moscow Trump Tower negotiations ongoing through the campaign period.

Labor/Employment Events-1st Quarter 2019

From a narrower labor/employment law perspective, the first quarter of 2019 has seen continued dysfunction at the Federal Labor Relations Authority where the Authority has lacked a Senate-approved General Counsel for over two years, hence, there is no one to approve the filing of investigator-approved unfair labor practice complaints which have cumulated to more than 6500 pending, one of the more recent on behalf of the AFGE against the Department of Education for union-busting efforts including refusal to bargain (this amidst other Trump Administration efforts to curb government worker organizing rights).  As to private sector labor law, the current National Labor Relations Board Chair, management-side labor attorney John Ring has been considering subcontracting the traditional work of NLRB staff to subcontractors, such as review of public comments on the Board’s proposed new joint employer rule (notwithstanding ongoing reduction of NLRB employee compensation and downsizing actions and certainly giving rise to conflict of interest concerns as well as questions as to which contractor could possibly possess staff of expertise equivalent to the staff of the NLRB).

Nonetheless Noteworthy…

Notwithstanding the foregoing “pall” over discussion of current events, two recent reports inspire comment.  First, in contrast to the above national labor news, the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign has announced it is recognizing a staff union, a local of the UFCW, a first in the history of U.S. presidential campaigns (teasing other candidates, including Julian Castro, to chime in that their campaigns also would support a union should staff choose to form one.

And in late February the United Auto Workers Union filed suit against General Motors seeking an order that the company rescind its decision to close three facilities—in Lordstown, Ohio, White Marsh, Maryland and Warren, Michigan.  The Company’s announced decision was the one to which Trump responded with a tweet, particularly as to the Lordstown plant, that “he wanted the plant opened or sold to a company that will open it up fast.”  The UAW contends that GM’s decision (it uses the terminology that it will “unallocated” the three plants) violates the parties’ 2015 collective bargaining agreement which forbids plant closure (or sale) “unless conditions arise outside the control of the company.”  This contract expires in September.  Under NLRB “successorship” doctrine, the purchase of the plant could obligate the buyer to recognize and bargain with the union were the plant to continue car production and employ a majority of workers from the bargaining unit.  It has been hazarded that the most likely buyer would be a European automaker, but for the fact that past attempts to organize foreign carmakers’ U.S. operations have encountered fierce management opposition.

Campaign for Green Jobs

And in an unfortunate confluence of recent events the AFL-CIO has come out in opposition to the Green New Deal, notwithstanding its obvious urgency, aspirational character and express pledge to foster union jobs and organizing rights.  This seems an excellent example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”  As Liam Cain, a wildland firefighter and former worker in the extractive fossil fuel industry commented in an interview published in yesterday’s In These Times, “What It Will Take to Build Union Support for the Green New Deal-Despite the AFL-CIO,” “I have a lot of empathy for these workers doing these jobs that are actively pulling sand out of the hour glass of human life on this planet….but…very little love for the figureheads at the top of building and trade unions.” Cain further explained, “If we believe this labor movement stuff we talk about, that an injury to one is an injury to all, we need to recognize this industry if perpetuating harms against our peers, our neighbors, other working stiffs in other places.”   A better focus for Labor might be making real the slogan, “Green Jobs for All.”