The NLRB adviser calls for a ban on mandatory anti-union meetings

A general adviser to the National Labor Committee released a letter Thursday claiming that it was common practice for employers to require workers to attend anti-union meetings illegal under federal law, although the Labor Committee’s precedent allowed it.

Chief adviser Jennifer Abruzzo, who enforces federal labor law by prosecuting violations, said her office would soon file a motion in the case before the labor committee, which decides on such matters, asking the committee to set aside its precedent in meetings.

“This coercion permit is an anomaly in the labor law, which is not in line with the law that protects the free choice of employees,” Ms Abruzzo said in a statement, citing the National Labor Law. “I believe that the precedent of the NLRB case, which tolerated such meetings, is contrary to the basic principles of labor law, our statutory language and our mandate in Congress.”

In recent months, high-profile employers such as Amazon and Starbucks, which are facing growing union campaigns, have held hundreds of meetings trying to persuade workers not to join unions, claiming unions are a “third party” to come between management. and workers.

Amazon officials and consultants have repeatedly told workers at mandatory meetings that they “could end up with more wages and benefits than they had before the union, the same amount they had or could potentially end up with less,” according to an NLRB testimony. the Alabama union election last year.

Last year, the company spent more than $ 4 million on consultants who attended such meetings and sought workers on warehouse floors.

But many workers and union officials complain that these claims are very misleading. Union employees usually earn more than similar non-union workers, and it is very unusual for pay to fall as a result of a union contract.

Wilma B. Liebman, who chaired the Labor Committee under President Barack Obama, said he would probably be sympathetic to Ms. Abruzzo’s argument and could reverse his precedent. But Ms Liebman said it was unclear what the practical effect would be with the reversal, as many employees may feel compelled to attend anti-union meetings even if they are no longer mandatory.

“Those on the fence may be reluctant to attend for fear of retaliation or being singled out,” she wrote in an email.

According to the spokesperson, the regional offices of the board, overseen by Ms. Abruzzo, are also likely to file complaints against employers during meetings. One union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, brought such a case to Bessemer, Ala., Where it recently helped organize workers who want to unite Amazon’s warehouse. Last week’s vote count showed union supporters lagged behind union opponents in the election, but the outcome will depend on several hundred disputed votes, whose status will be determined in the coming weeks.

A spokeswoman for the labor committee said that the outcome of the “leading” case of the committee at mandatory meetings would oblige other cases. The case is pending, but has not been identified.

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