NLRB Decides Labor-Management Committees Case
Murphy, Betty Southard, Barlow, Wayne E., Hatch, D. Diane, Personnel Journal
The national Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently held that Electromation Inc. created, dominated and supported employee action committees at its Elkhart, Indiana, plant to impose its own unilateral form of bargaining on employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
As a result of financial difficulties, Electromation dropped its existing employee attendance bonus policy and, in lieu of giving workers a wage increase for 1989, distributed year-end, lump-sum payments to employees. Shortly thereafter, the company received a petition signed by 68 of its employees asking management to reconsider its unilateral decision.
In response to the petition from the employees, Electromation set up five action committees in January 1989 as forums in which management could discuss with employees both the petition and their complaints. Supervisors and managers served on the committees and participated in the discussions concerning conditions of employment.
The committees were set up to discuss a range of topics with employees, including absenteeism, pay progression, and a no-smoking policy. Employees could volunteer on a sign-up sheet, but management limited participation to one committee per employee.
One month later, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters demanded recognition as the bargaining agent for employees of Electromation. As a result, the company notified its employees that it no longer could participate in the committees until after a union representation election set for March 31, 1989.
After unfair labor practice charges were filed with the Board, an administrative law judge of the NLRB concluded that the company had violated the NLRA by creating and then dominating the action committees. The NLRB agreed.
Section 8(a)(2) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for employers to "dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it...." A "labor organization" would include any "employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work. …