In a nice example of synchronicity, the Jacksonville Symphony musicians, with the assistance of their counsel, Liza Medina, proved my point about the dangers of an employer declaring impasse within hours of my having written this post last week by winning a ruling from the NLRB on the subject:
There is enough evidence of unfair labor practices by the Jacksonville Symphony Association to take the musicians’ union’s complaint before an administrative law judge, the National Labor Relations Board has decided.
The union received an email Thursday from the NLRB’s Tampa office that said “the Region found violations on the following allegations: premature declaration of impasse and implementation of its last offer, surface bargaining, and the information requests.”
In a news release issued Friday morning, the symphony association said, “It is important to understand that this complaint merely makes allegations based on charges filed by the union.”
But the NLRB, which sent an investigator to Jacksonville to interview representatives of the symphony association and the union, could have declined to take the complaint to an administrative law judge. Once the administrative law judge holds hearings and issues a ruling, that ruling can still be appealed to the NLRB and then in federal court.
This is a big victory for the musicians, and a very unusual one. It’s very hard to get the NLRB to charge an employer on these bases, and regardless of the bluster from management, is seriously bad news for them. (It is not true, by the way, that the “complaint merely makes allegations based on charges filed by the union.” The NLRB investigates before making charges like this, as the article made clear.)
How seriously bad? According to this article on a management-side labor law blog,
A reversal by the NLRB of illegal unilateral changes means that the employer must repay the cost of the changes to employees, which often leaves the employer in a worse position.
It sure would in this case, as the implemented proposal cut musician wages by around 20%. The real impact of this development, though, is to increase pressure on management to negotiate, as the surest way of making these charges – and their potential financial impact – go away is to get the union to drop them as part of a package settlement. Or, in other words, management’s Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement just got a lot worse.