Labor Issue Proves Costly; Could You Be Next?

A recent labor case has been in the news, in which a prominent coffee company has been deemed by the National Labor Relations Board to have illegally dismissed a problem employee because the staffer was “pro-union.”

However, here are some comments that worker reportedly made to his manager during one instance when he felt the manager should have helped during a busy period: “it’s about damn time”; “this is bull****”; and “do everything your damn self.”

Charming.

But since the employee in question had organized union protests and the manager included that fact in the reasons given for dismissal, the NLRB determined his firing was at least in part because of his union support. It ordered the company to offer this person his job back — and compensate him for loss of pay and benefits. It goes to show that common sense doesn’t always apply with today’s NLRB and labor issues.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are proud to offer the second edition of The Indiana Guide to Labor Relations. Last published in 2000, a great deal has changed at both the federal and state levels, as well as in the workplace. This is a comprehensive guide, illustrating how employers can deal effectively with all varieties of union issues. New updates in this edition include:

  • The NLRB’s recent attack on social media policies and disciplinary decisions
  • Updated discussion on how to defend against union organizing
  • Indiana’s right-to-work law
  • New union election rules being contemplated by the NLRB
  • Updated analysis of employers’ ability to lock out employees during bargaining

This book is available for $89, or $66.75 for Indiana Chamber members. It can be ordered online, or by calling (800) 824-6885.

Here are some other resources from the Indiana Chamber you may find helpful:

ExecConnect Event Sheds Light on Indiana Mid-Markets

In 2008, the Indiana Chamber Foundation released a study titled "Accelerating Growth in Indiana’s Mid-Market Companies," which focused on how established Indiana organizations could learn from each other. Today, the Indiana Chamber, Barnes & Thornburg and Butler Business Accelerator hosted a seminar to further discuss issues impacting mid-market companies.

Some notable facts that came to light in the study:

  • 3% of all Indiana-based, for-profit firms landed in the mid-market definition of between $5 million and $100 million in annual sales
  • But those 3% of Indiana firms accounted for 30% (386,808) of the jobs and 40.4% (more than $55 billion) of total sales for Indiana-headquartered businesses

Governor Mitch Daniels opened the discussion today by educating the nearly 150 business leaders in attendance about the positive steps Indiana has taken in recent years to become more business friendly.

He noted that not only are companies from many other states relocating to Indiana, but the Hoosier state has gone from 37th in per capita spending in 2004 to 45th in 2008. Daniels added the state’s debt is down 40% since 2005, a time span that saw most debts around the nation increase.

"You’ll be amazed at how much government you’ll never miss," he quipped.

He pointed to Indiana’s budgetary position as being in far better shape than many in the region, or even the country.

"When I can’t sleep, I don’t count sheep," he said. "I count all the states I’m glad I’m not governor of."

Breakout sessions took place on a variety of topics, including strategic planning and health care reform.

Regarding strategic planning, Scott Webber of Volatus Advisors explained, "As a guy who invests and helps young companies grow, we want to determine what we want to be three to five years down the road and identify a path to get there.

"We’ll do an off-site retreat and figure out where we want to be, then track the steps in reverse. That way you can identify any gaps in advance."

Perhaps David Lindsey of Defender Direct most aptly summed up the need for companies to focus when developing a strategic plan by harkening back to an old proverb: "If you chase two rabbits, they will both escape."

There’s Nothing ‘Free’ in This ‘Choice’

Uninvited guests called on the Chamber this morning – both outside and inside the building. Why? Desperation to preserve union viability through passage of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

A handful of picketers came together on a downtown street corner for a short time, while the Chamber was conducting its EFCA seminar (for members and customers) in its conference center. The protesters were Central Indiana representatives of Jobs With Justice, a national effort focused on workers’ rights. The piece of paper they were distributing to passers-by claimed that EFCA will not eliminate so-called “secret ballot” elections and that it would “increase penalties for companies who instill fear in employees by harassing and intimidating them against the union.” Those two points are so laughable that they are not even worth addressing, but the picketers did have the right to express their opinions.
 
Inside the Chamber office, two members of the local AFL-CIO maneuvered their way into a portion of the actual seminar before they were asked to leave. They had not registered or paid the fee to attend. They were not eligible to participate – that has been clearly communicated this time and through many years of offering union-related programs. They did not have the right to “invade” an educational conference.
 
The seminar informed representatives of Indiana companies about EFCA and steps they should take if they did not:
  • want to be victim to a “card check” organizing campaign without any prior notice;
  • want their workers to be subject to coercion through card check instead of maintaining the fundamental right to a secret ballot; and
  • want to have independent government arbitrators decide how their business operates (if a union is put in place and no agreement is reached within a short time frame on an initial contract).

EFCA is bad for employers and employees. The only beneficiaries are union leaders.

 
Why has private sector employee involvement in unions declined to less than 8% nationwide? Because employers have provided open and effective communication, listened to their employees and created an atmosphere of trust. When those factors are not in place, employees may pursue union representation. The rules are in place for that to happen. Trying to artificially boost union numbers by taking away worker rights and the ability of employers and employees to negotiate contracts would be a disastrous move in the wrong direction.
 
The Indiana Prosperity Project has the details and offers you the ability to communicate your opposition to EFCA to your representatives in Washington.
 
The Indiana Chamber will host another EFCA seminar with Barnes & Thornburg in late August, featuring the most recent information. E-mail [email protected] to be added to the list to receive future information about this program.