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labor Three Interesting NLRB Decisions

In three recent cases the National Labor Relations Board ordered the re-opening of a facility it said was closed to avoid negotiating with a union; ordered a trucking company to re-hire workers and bargain with their union; and ordered the reinstatement of three non-union packing house workers who struck to protest working conditions.

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Greenbrier Rail Services Ordered to Reopen Facility, Reinstate Employees, Bargain with Union

May 2, 2014

On November 11, 2012, Gunderson Rail Services, which does business as Greenbrier Rail Services (Greenbrier), a nation-wide railway car repair and maintenance provider, laid off 28 of 90 employees working at its Tucson, Arizona facility in the wake of its employees' union organizing campaign, wherein a majority of Greenbrier's employees signed union authorization cards affirming they wanted the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Local 359 (Union) to represent them in collective bargaining.

After the NLRB's Phoenix Regional Office, Region 28, found merit to the Union's allegation that the layoff was unlawful, a NLRB administrative hearing was scheduled and began on September 17, 2013. Just prior to the start of the hearing, Greenbrier's officials announced plans to close the Tucson facility and lay off the remaining employees. The Region then determined that the impending closure and further layoffs were unfair labor practices aimed at further disrupting union organizing efforts.

Thereafter, the Region, with Board authorization, sought injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court, requiring Greenbrier to reopen its Tucson facility, restore its operations, reinstate the laid off employees and bargain with the Union. It sought this temporary injunctive relief because Greenbrier's actions squelched all union support at its facility and an immediate remedy was needed to counter Greenbrier's unlawful actions while issuance of a final Board was pending.

On March 14, 2014, Senior District Court Judge Frank R. Zapata, agreeing with the NLRB, issued a temporary injunction (Injunction Order), ordering Greenbrier to reopen and restore operations at its Tucson facility, to offer immediate reinstatement to the Tucson employees, and to bargain with the Union in good faith. The Injunction Order was subsequently clarified to require Greenbrier to continue its past practice of sending its own rail cars and equipment to Tucson for repair or service, to inform its largest customer that it would charge the same rates it had in effect in 2013, and to further inform other past customers that its Tucson facility had reopened and solicit them to use Greenbrier's services.

Greenbrier appealed and filed an emergency motion to stay the Injunction Order to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. On April 23, 2014, the Ninth Circuit denied the stay request and ordered that Greenbrier comply with the District Court's Injunction Order, as clarified, by no later than May 5, 2014. The appeal remains pending.

Northern California Trucking Company Agrees to Pay Drivers $262,000 in Backpay and Signs Union Contract

April 29, 2014

For years, Valley Aggregate Transport, Inc. operated an aggregate hauling facility out of Yuba City, California. Shortly after Teamsters Local 137 (the Union) was certified as the bargaining representative for the company's drivers, Commodity Trucking Acquisition, LLC, which does business as Dispatch Transportation (the Employer), assumed control and began operating the predecessor's facility. Under the National Labor Relations Act, new owners, who hire a majority of employees previously employed by the former owner, are obligated to recognize and bargain with the existing union as a successor employer. The Union alleged in charges filed with the NLRB that the new owners failed to hire longtime employees in order to avoid that obligation.

The Employer made it clear that it was not interested in operating a unionized facility and hired only a few of the predecessor's drivers. Thereafter, the Employer refused to recognize and bargain with the Union. After an investigation of a charge filed by the Union, NLRB Region 20 concluded that the Employer would have hired many more of the predecessor's drivers but for its desire to avoid a bargaining obligation, and that its subsequent refusal to recognize and bargain with the Union was therefore unlawful.

After the Region issued a complaint, the Employer and the Union entered into a Board settlement. By the terms of that settlement, Dispatch Transportation will pay a total of $262,000.00 in backpay to the drivers. The Employer will also restore the predecessor's policy of recalling and dispatching drivers by seniority. In addition to the settlement, the Employer and the Union mutually agreed to a three-year collective-bargaining agreement.

NLRB Orders Greater Omaha Packing to Reinstate Employees Unlawfully Fired for Protesting their Working Conditions

March 14, 2014

On March 12, 2014, the Board (360 NLRB No. 62) affirmed an NLRB administrative law judge's earlier ruling that Greater Omaha Packing, a Nebraska-based meat processing and packaging plant, unlawfully discharged employees after they engaged in protected concerted activity.

In April 2012, a group of employees walked off the production line to protest the speed of the line and other working conditions, and thereafter met with the plant manager. That evening, the employees again met with the plant manager, to discuss their compensation and other matters. One month later, when the Employer learned that another work stoppage was planned, three employees were separately called into the office and dismissed. The employees filed a charge with the NLRB's office in Overland Park, Kansas, which investigated and issued a complaint. An NLRB administrative law judge found that the Employer had unlawfully discharged the employees in retaliation for engaging in concerted protected activity.

The employer appealed the judge's order, leading to the Board's decision affirming the judge's ruling and requiring the Employer to reinstate the employees with full backpay and benefits.

Charges Before the NLRB Gets Three Workers' Jobs Ordered Reinstated at Greater Omaha Packing Co.

Heartland Workers Center

Omaha, Nebraska - On December 27, 2012, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the Greater Omaha Packing Company had violated the rights of three workers last year and ordered the company to offer them reinstatement and give them full back pay and benefits.

On May 14, 2012, a number of workers in the plant decided to participate in a planned work stoppage in an effort to gain pay increases and a reduction in the speed of the production line.  When the plant management became aware of these plans, three workers were fired and removed from the plant by security.

"When they told me I was fired, I didn't understand why.  But I soon felt as if my world came crashing down around me," stated Carlos Zamora, a worker in the case.

Soon after being fired, the workers contacted the Heartland Workers Center (HWC) to see if they could somehow challenge the firings.  It was determined that contacting the NLRB would be the best option because the workers planned to participate in a protected labor activity.  Although the plant is non-union, under the NLRA, workers have the right to act together to improve working conditions and benefits.  A complaint was filed under the auspices of the HWC, and the case was heard by an Administrative Law Judge on October 31 and November 1, 2012.

The judge ruled in favor of the workers.  As a result of the ruling, Greater Omaha Packing Company was given 14 days to offer full reinstatement to the three workers to their former jobs or the equivalent, provide them with full back pay and benefits, and post a notice that states the rights of workers under the NLRA and the decision of the case.

Susana Salgado Martinez, another worker in the case stated, "I am pleased with the decision.  It shows that with a little help, patience, and perseverance, you can achieve something and our rights as workers can be protected."

"The mission of the HWC is to teach, promote, and defend the rights of all workers," said Sergio Sosa, HWC Executive Director.  "This ruling is not only a major victory for the aggrieved workers but underscores the value of the HWC in our community.  We hope it will be used to improve the relationship between employers and employees as we begin to build a community that works for all."

The NLRB decision is a public document and available on the NLRB's website (