News & Commentary

May 16, 2019

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) wrote to the National Mediation Board yesterday to accuse Delta of illegally interfering with the right of baggage handlers and flight attendants to make a free choice on unionization.  The complaint follows a week in which one of Delta’s anti-union posters went viral and attracted widespread criticism.  In the letter, the IAM urged the Board to intervene to protect laboratory conditions.  “While the Board traditionally waits until after an election to investigate carrier interference,” the letter states, “we submit that given Delta’s present and past conduct, this case presents exceptional circumstances.”  HuffPost reports that Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, met with Delta representatives on Tuesday and asked them to publicly apologize and to remain neutral as the campaign moves forward.  Yesterday nine lawmakers, led by Senator Bernie Sanders and joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren, sent Delta CEO Ed Bastian a letter denouncing the company’s union-busting tactics.  Senator Kamala Harris later sent Bastian her own letter calling on Delta to abandon its anti-union campaign.

After spending over a year and a half in confirmation limbo, Scott Mugno asked President Trump to withdraw his nomination to be administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Mugno previously served as the Vice President for Safety, Sustainability, and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx.  OSHA has been without an administrator for the duration of the Trump administration, frustrating Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and business leaders hoping for speedier regulatory rollbacks.  Acosta also suffered another setback this week with the departure of his top aide Nick Geale.  Politico reports that White House officials ordered Geale’s exit after an investigation found a pattern of abusive behavior toward staff.  But Axios also pointed to tensions between Geale and the White House over the perceived slow pace of deregulation at DOL.

The NLRB General Counsel’s advice memo on the classification of Uber drivers (reported yesterday) was only one of nine memos released by the agency this week.  Bloomberg Law calls attention to three others with wide-ranging implications.  In IBEW Local 134 (Summit Design + Build), union members assembled at a construction job site where they set up a giant, inflatable cat and held a banner announcing a labor dispute with the project’s general contractor.  In fact, the workers’ dispute was with a subcontractor.  The General Counsel instructed the Regional Director to issue complaints against the union for picketing a secondary employer and for using the inflatable cat and the inaccurate banner to signal to other workers not to enter.  In Vistra Energy, the General Counsel said that an employer complied with the law when it would not deduct and forward dues to a union that had merged with the union named as the dues recipient under the contract.  In SEIU United Healthcare Workers (Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center), the General Counsel determined that a union had breached its duty of fair representation by neglecting to notify an employee that his grievance had been denied until after the deadline for when the decision could be appealed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is cracking down on perceived overtime abuse by state transportation workers.  The MTA has dispatched police officers along the Long Island Rail Road to monitor compliance.  The new enforcement effort comes as the collective bargaining agreement between the MTA and its workforce expired last night.  Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen claimed that the agency’s actions criminalize employees and said that “a strike is not a far-fetched notion anymore.”  While strikes by public employees are illegal under New York’s Taylor Law, MTA workers previously walked off the job in 2005.

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