Friday, February 4, 2011
The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, has just proposed an end to the years-long struggle over whether airport security officers can engage in collective bargaining with the agency. Pistole announced that TSA will engage in limited bargaining with any union that the employees elect as their representative. An election in which two unions are vying to represent the 45,000 workers is scheduled for March. The New York Times has more details:
[Pistole said] that he would used the power granted to him by Congress to authorize collective bargaining by airport security personnel on a limited set of topics, including rules governing who gets priorities for vacation time and shift assignments, how workplace transfers take place and how employees are recognized for commendable work. The negotiations will take place on a national level, not with state or local union affiliates.
[If the workers] choose a union, they will not be able to turn to it to bargain on their behalf for such traditionally negotiated topics as pay, retirement benefits, job qualification rules, disciplinary standards or issues related to security procedures, like what security equipment they must use or when and where they are deployed. This would allow the agency — a division of the Department of Homeland Security — to rapidly reassign security officers in response to a particular threat or to change security procedures or equipment without having to consult collective bargaining rules, an agency official said. The security officers are also not allowed to strike or have any work-related slowdowns as a form of union demonstration. There will be set limits on how long negotiations on topics subject to union bargaining can drag on. And the officers will not be required to join a union or pay dues.
The security officers already have the right to join a union, and about 13,000 are dues-paying members of the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union, the two unions competing for the exclusive right to represent them this spring. But these unions cannot now collectively bargain on behalf of the workers, representing them instead only as individuals, in certain situations, like if an employee is subject to a disciplinary action.
There's still Congressional resistance to any bargaining, and no certainty that the unions will accept this, so this is not the end of the story.
On Wednesday morning, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an internal memo to his staff telling it that he would take a $1 salary if owners lock out players. His promise to slash his compensation from about $10 million was reported on Twitter by an NFL Network reporter, provided by the league to the Sports Business Journal, then reported and posted on Twitter by other outlets, including NFL.com.
Hours later, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players union, responded on Twitter that he would work for 68 cents if an agreement is reached by the Super Bowl.
Adds Lise: "Something tells me that this tactic probably won't spread to industries where salaries for employer and union negotiators are not quite so high."
Nice work if you can get it.
In this paper I argue that no labor movement is possible until workers understand and accept the inevitability of labor-management conflict. I support my contention drawing broadly on history surrounding the New Deal and on my own experiences as a union organizer and labor lawyer.
This is a wonderful essay -- it makes a solid argument and is an exceptionally good read. I strongly recommend it.
The Department of Labor has released the January employment data. However, because of bad weather and government job losses, the reliability of these numbers--at least as a sign of any broader trends--is minimal. Among the findings was an increase of only 36,000 jobs the past month. This, in addition to populations readjustments and fewer people braving the cold to look for work, resulted in a decline of the unemployment rate to 9% from the previous month's 9.4%.
Of course, if the weather affected things a lot in January, February may be worse . . . .
Thursday, February 3, 2011
A recent study by Quest Diagnostics shows that more workers (including those in safety-sensitive positions) are using heroin or prescribed opiates on the job than was thought previously. Before we panic too much, the incidence rate is still pretty low at .04% of workers who test positive for heroin. However, post-accident tests are four times more likely to show opiate use than is pre-employment testing, which suggests it might be difficult to prevent such accidents by pre-employment testing alone.
The rise is due in part to a better testing method, but may also be due to more employees self-medicating to deal with stress. For more see this Fortune story, which also discusses confidentiality and Employee Assistance Programs.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
David Lewis (Middlesex Univ., London) has organized an International Whistleblower Research Conference at Middlesex University in London on June 23 and 24, 2011. There are several speakers from all over the world. The tentative schedule is:
THURSDAY 23rd JUNE
1pm WELCOME (Professor Waqar Ahmad,Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and Professor David Lewis, Middlesex University)
1-10PM: PROFESSOR INDIRA CARR(UK): “Whistleblowing as an anti-corruption tool: the case of the UK Bribery Act”
2-10PM PROFESSOR ABRAHAM MANSBACH (Israel): "Whistleblowing and Micropolitics."
3-30PM DR BRITA BJORKELO AND PROFESSOR STIG MATTHIESEN (Norway): “Preventing and dealing with retaliation against whistleblowers".
4-30PM DR EVA TSAHURIDU (AUSTRALIA): 'Whistleblowing management is risk management'
FRIDAY 24th JUNE
9-30am PROFESSOR A.J.BROWN (AUSTRALIA): 'Flying Foxes and Freedom of Speech: The Liberalisation of Statutory Public Interest Disclosure Thresholds in Australia'
10.30am PROFESSOR RICHARD MOBERLY (USA): "Whistleblower Protection in U.S.Corporate Codes of Conduct".
11-50 am CATHY JAMES (UK): “The role of independent regulators in the UK”
Dr BJÖRN ROHDE-LIEBENAU (GERMANY): “The role of Ombudsmen in the fight against corruption.”
12-50pm FINAL COMMENTS AND CLOSE OF CONFERENCE.
If anyone is interested, the website www.mdx.ac.uk/whistleblowing should be up and running in a week or so but in the short term the best bet is to direct all inquiries to David at D.B.Lewis@mdx.ac.uk. Here is a copy of the registration form.
Thanks to Richard Moberly (Nebraska) for the heads up!
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
David Foley over at Labor Related has a terrific post on a National Labor Relations Board decision issued on Friday. The case is Parexel International, 356 NLRB No. 82 (2011). A nurse complains to a supervisor (but not to other employees) about wages and working conditions. The ALJ found no protected/concerted activity, because the employee had not acted in concert with other employees. The Board, however, reversed, ruling that because the firing was a "preemptive strike" done to stop the employee from complaining to the other employees, the discharge was unlawful. Thus, as Foley writes, "a termination designed to nip-in-the-bud employee complaints about wage discrepancies was unlawfully motivated and would restrain/coerce employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights."
The Board writes that its decision
is consistent with other lines of Board precedent holding that, under certain circumstances, employees who have engaged in no concerted activity at all are protected from adverse action. For example, an adverse action taken against an employee based on the employer’s belief that the employee engaged in protected concerted activity is unlawful even if the belief was mistaken and the employee did not in fact engage in such activity [footnote omitted]. Similarly, a mass discharge undertaken without concern for whether individual employees were engaged in concerted activity—where “some white sheep suffer along with the black”—violates the Act [footnote omitted]. What is critical in those cases is not what the employee did, but rather the employer’s intent to suppress protected concerted activity.
It seems to me that the Board is expanding the definition of protected-concerted activity a bit more then it's admitting. Now, every time an employee complains and is subsequently fired, the employee can file an unfair labor practice charge, and it's a fact issue as to whether the employer was motivated by a desire to nip the complaint in the bud or by something else.
After graduating from law school, James clerked for Gerhard Gesell of D.C. D.C. and then for Justice Harry Blackmun. He practiced at Bredhoff & Kaiser in Washington, then served six years as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor.
He teaches Employment Law, Labor Law, Legislation, Comparative Labor and Employment Law, Age Discrimination in the Workplace, and Comparative Legislation. His scholarly writing is in the areas of workplace law and statutory interpretation.
James was selected by the Class of 1996 as the Outstanding Law Professor of the Year. He was honored with a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award to do research and lecturing at Oxford University in the Fall of 2000. In 2008, he received an Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching from the Ohio State University.