Tag Archives: Unions

The Right-to-Work Movement Gains Momentum

On January 7, 2017, Kentucky became the 27th right-to-work state. Right-to-work laws make it illegal for unions or employers to compel workers to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. Florida was one of the first states with a right-to-work law pursuant to a constitutional provision passed in the 1940s. In Florida, and other right-to-work states, even if a worker is included within a bargaining unit of a unionized workplace and legally represented by the union, the employee still has an individual choice on whether to join the union and pay dues. Unions, of course, do not care for such laws or those states that adopt them.

Right-to-work initiatives have picked up steam in recent years with Indiana becoming the 23rd right-to-work state in 2012, followed by Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and now Kentucky. As a consequence of Republican victories in November 2016 it is anticipated that more states will climb on the right-to-work bandwagon —such laws are pending in Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire and New Jersey. The driver for the expansion of right-to-work legislation is economics. Although right-to-work laws do not a bar unionization, industry and business typically view right-to-work states as more favorable economically, believing that there is a better opportunity to avoid unionization and the constraints that typically accompany union contracts.

A recent highly controversial issue associated with right-to-work is whether a political subdivision of a state, such as a county or municipality, may enact its own right-to-work law in the absence of state legislation.  A federal appellate court, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, just ruled that political subdivisions  of a state are legally permitted to enact their own right-to-work laws. On the other hand, a federal trial court in the Northern District of Illinois (part of the federal 7th  Circuit Court of Appeals ) recently ruled the other way.  It is likely this issue will eventually be addressed and resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court that will hopefully establish a uniform rule on this issue.

John M. Hament
(941) 552-2555

The Clock Is Ticking…Private Sector Employers Face June 30 Deadline to Avoid New Reporting Requirements

The Department of Labor recently issued a rule imposing new reporting requirements on private sector employers who engage attorneys or consultants to persuade employees concerning the right to organize and collectively bargain. Employers who have entered into an agreement for labor relations services before July 1, 2016 are exempt from the reporting requirement, even if the need for services arises after July 1.

The prior “persuader” rule requires both employers and labor relations consultants (including attorneys) to report to the DOL only when they engage in persuasive communications directly with employees regarding the right to organize a union or bargain collectively. The rule’s long-standing “advice exemption” has generally exempted consultants and attorneys from the reporting requirements when they have simply provided “behind the scenes” guidance to employers (e.g., drafting speeches and letters directed to employees by management to dissuade employees from unionizing).

In the new rule, which takes effect July 1, 2016, the DOL narrows the “advice exemption” by broadening the reporting requirements to include activities undertaken by a consultant or attorney, even when there is no direct contact or communication with employees, where the object of the activity is to persuade employees concerning the right to organize and collectively bargain.

The new DOL rule has triggered numerous legal challenges throughout the country by employers and business associations. One of the principal objections is that the new reporting requirements essentially eviscerate the attorney-client privilege between the employer and its labor relations attorney.

Contact any of our labor and employment attorneys to discuss this time-sensitive issue.

John M. Hament
(941) 552-2555

Gail E. Farb
(941) 552-2557