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Judge Strikes Down Obama’s ‘Improper’ NLRB Recess Appointment (Read More…)

By Alissa Tabirian
August 23, 2013

A federal judge struck down one of President Obama’s highly controversial recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled in a case involving a Washington State firm charged with unfair labor practices that that “the Board is without power to act because it lacks a properly appointed quorum.”

On August 12, four new NRLB members appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate were sworn-in, but Settles’ August 13th decision invalidates all previous actions taken by Obama’s recess appointees.

In July, Obama was forced to withdrew his 2012 “recess” appointees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, because they were named to the NLRB while the Senate was still in session and their appointments were subsequently ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

Obama named Lafe Solomon acting general counsel in 2010, then re-nominated him as the agency’s top lawyer in 2011 and 2013, although he was never confirmed by the Senate. (See NLRB press release.pdf)

But Settle ruled that Solomon’s appointment was invalid because the Federal Vacancies Reform Act requires that the appointee serve “as a personal assistant to the departing officer” within the year prior to the appointment, which Solomon did not do.

The ruling “recognizes what the NLRB has failed to acknowledge: that former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon’s authority was questionable and came at an extreme cost to America’s job creators, like Boeing and Wal-Mart,” Dan Epstein, executive director of government accountability organization Cause of Action, commented.


Solomon came under fire by business groups after filing a 2011 complaint against Boeing, claiming that the aviation giant’s opening of a production plant in right-to-work South Carolina was an improper response to threats of a strike by its unionized employees in Washington State.

Judicial Watch released documents revealing emails about a deal the NLRB offered Boeing, in which it would drop the complaint if Boeing agreed not to lay off unionized workers. The union employees were later granted a contract extension and the complaint was formally withdrawn.

Last year, the NLRB’s Office of the Inspector General reported on a conflict of interest case involving Solomon, who held a substantial amount of Wal-Mart stock but participated in a decision on whether to file a complaint against Wal-Mart’s social media policy.

NLRB personnel polices prohibit individuals “from participating personally and substantially” in matters in which they have a financial interest.

Noting that “The DOJ can bring criminal or civil actions against Solomon,” Cause of Action condemned the OIG’s decision not to hold Solomon accountable because of “defects in the ethics process at the NLRB.”


Posted by Admin on 08/29 at 09:02 AM

Bezos, No Fan of Unions, Gets 1,200 Union Workers at Washington Post (Read More…)

Curt Woodward 8/7/13

Since founding Amazon, Jeff Bezos has poured his growing wealth and business savvy into a dizzying array of interests, from cloud computing and consumer electronics to private spaceflight and even fusion power.

One role he hasn’t typically filled, however, is labor negotiator. But that will change when Bezos takes over The Washington Post.

In his surprise $250 million deal to buy the Post, Bezos is getting the duty to negotiate with six union locals representing nearly 1,200 workers, according to the Post’s latest annual report. Most of them are newsroom jobs, but the tally also includes mailroom workers, machinists, and a smattering of other blue-collar employees (I’ve included a breakdown of the various unions below).

Dealing with that many unionized workers is a big change from Bezos’ self-described “day job” as CEO of Amazon, where none of his 90,000 U.S. employees are represented by unions.

As The New York Times recently reported, Amazon—like many large employers—is generally opposed to organized labor, which the company believes would “slow down the kind of behind-the-scenes innovation that has propelled its growth.”

It also fits with Bezos’ personal politics. Personal associates have described him as libertarian, a preference borne out in recent political contributions opposing the creation of a state income tax and supporting marriages for gay couples in Washington state.

Bezos’ unknown approach to union contract negotiations is just one of the many intriguing questions surrounding his purchase of the Post, which shocked the tech and media industries when it was announced Monday afternoon.

Cornell University law professor William A. Jacobson, a securities law expert and former civil litigator, writes that it makes “no sense” for Bezos to spend $250 million on “a stodgy, moribund unionized organization like [the Post]. For $250 million he could have built a news organization from scratch.”
“Good luck, Jeff, you’ll need it,” Jacobson added.

The Bezos era of labor relations could be put on display very soon, in the most high-profile way possible. The Washington Post’s largest union, which represents more than 800 workers in newsroom and some commercial jobs, is in the middle of updating its contract.

That union local, The Newspaper Guild, seemed heartened by the early statements from Bezos and the Post’s continuing management, which indicated that no layoffs or changes to employee conditions were imminent.

The union also noted that securities law obliges Bezos to negotiate with existing unions, and that his purchase agreement for the Post included a promise to maintain all employees’ salaries for at least a year.

It’s not like the Post’s longtime owners have been softies at the negotiating table. The Newspaper Guild, which represents editorial workers, has balked at the existing Post management’s attempts to broaden its ability to fire people and its offer of a lump sum wage increase, instead of the 3.5 percent raise the union wants.

But union activists have to be a little worried about the fresh possibility of tangling with a Bezos-led management at the negotiating table, especially after reports like the revelation of poor working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, including a facility in Pennsylvania that reportedly got so hot during summertime that Amazon kept ambulances parked outside to whisk the workers to the hospital.

In the end, it may be the continuing march of technological change that roils the Post’s workforce more than any hardball management tactics traced back to Bezos, said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“I wouldn’t expect any direct confrontation with the unions. The big issue in newspapers, where the Post helped break down unions in the past, is with introducing new technology that cut union jobs,” he said. “I would expect he could be aggressive on that front.”
Bezos hinted as much in his letter to Post employees.

“There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership,” he wrote. “There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”

Here’s a list of the unions representing workers at The Washington Post, along with the number of workers and the end date of their contracts, as of the Post’s 2012 annual report:
Editorial, newsroom, and commercial 819 employees Communications Workers of America

Mailroom 282 employees Communications Workers of America

Machinists 27 employees International Association of Machinists

Paper handlers and general workers 27 employees Graphic Communications Conference (Teamsters

Electricians 15 employees International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Photoengravers/platemakers 7employees Graphic Communications Conference (Teamsters)

Posted by Admin on 08/07 at 11:06 AM