News & Commentary

May 18, 2022

Jason Vazquez

Jason Vazquez is a student at Harvard Law School.

The burgeoning wave of labor strife at Apple Inc. continues as retail employees at an Atlanta store filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company on Tuesday, accusing the monstrously-profitable multinational tech giant of violating § 8(a)(1) of the NLRA by holding captive audience meetings, which, as I explained a few weeks ago, are currently considered legal under NLRB caselaw but General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, labelling such meetings a “license to coerce” and “an anomaly in labor law,” has urged the Board to outlaw. The ULP was filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union attempting to organize the Atlanta store, which last month became the first Apple retail shop to petition for a union representation election and has since been followed by several others.

The proposed merger between Spirit Airlines, Inc. and Frontier Airlines received a boost on Tuesday as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the union representing flight attendants for both airline companies, announced “full support” for the merger after negotiating a “Merger Transition Agreement” with Frontier Holding, Frontier’s parent company, which would secure job, seniority, and contract protections for Spirit and Frontier flight attendants. Spirit and Frontier, two of the country’s primary ultra low-cost carriers, announced the proposed $6.6 billion merger in early February to become the nation’s fifth-largest carrier, and the deal was affirmed by the Spirit Board of Directors earlier this month, though the proposal has generated some hostility among lawmakers and special interest groups and raised antitrust concerns.

The Merger Transition Agreement provides, inter alia, that no merger will take place until a joint collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated and ratified; that no flight attendant may be furloughed as a result of the merger process; and the maintenance of all seniority rights, an agreement which, the union insists, “affirms the merger will benefit Flight Attendants.” The proposed merger remains fair from settled however—the combination would be subject to approval by the Department of Justice, and just yesterday JetBlue Airways, which would be leapfrogged in size by the Spirit-Frontier Merger, launched a hostile takeover bid for Spirit.

In NLRB news, Angie Cowan Hamada, an attorney for over fifteen years with the Chicago-based labor-side law firm Allison, Slutsky, & Kennedy, P.C., was appointed on Monday to serve as the Regional Director for the NLRB’s Region 13 office, located in Chicago. Cowan Hamada, “a brilliant labor lawyer who has dedicated her career to protecting workers’ rights” in the words of GC Abruzzo, worked for UNITE HERE prior to law school, was a Peggy Browning Fellow during law school, and primarily represented labor unions, employees, and benefit funds while in private practice. Under conservative leadership the National Labor Relations Board has occasionally, and tragically, been turned into yet another legal device to oppress working people, but in good hands the agency retains substantial power to protect workers and promote unionization—the appointment of pro-worker lawyers to top Board positions, and top administrative positions generally, is always cause for celebration.

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