Too Radical Or Not Radical Enough? Top U.S. Labor Lawyers In The Spotlight | U.S. Labor Unions

As the Biden administration claims, the most pro-union of a generation, Many US labor leaders have hailed Jennifer Abruzzo as the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) most vigorous pro-union legal counsel in decades.

The top attorney for the agency charged with enforcing U.S. labor law has been hailed as an advocate and a “radical” by opponents. For others involved in the heated world of union organizing, she hasn’t done enough.

Abruzzo’s good intentions are clear. She has repeatedly asked her five-member board of directors of the NLRB to adopt new policies to facilitate union formation. She wants the board to ban her meetings with so-called captive audiences, where Amazon and many other companies demand that employees hear anti-union speeches by managers and consultants. She hopes to require the board to grant employers union approval once a majority of workers have signed a card saying they want the union.

The NLRB is the federal agency that oversees and adjudicates unionization efforts and collective bargaining in the American private sector. Its general counsel essentially functions as a prosecutor to crack down on labor law violations. For example, we will crack down on companies that fire workers to support unions and unions that engage in illegal picketing.

With Republican Senate filibusters blocking Joe Biden from pushing legislation that would make it easier to unionize, many unions and workers are looking to the NLRB board and Abruzzo to make it happen instead. I’m here. Method.

As legal advisor, Abruzzo Starbucks A total of 19 complaints were received accusing Starbucks of 81 illegal and unfair labor practices, including spying on workers, firing more than a dozen union supporters, and closing stores in retaliation. . for unity.

Nonetheless, the Starbucks union has complained that Abruzzo was not aggressive enough against Starbucks. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the company is offering pay raises and benefits to baristas at non-union stores. He then warned me. However, it does not apply to workers in stores that are already organized Or petitioned for union elections. Not only has this made many baristas reluctant to support unions, but some labor leaders fear other companies may adopt this powerful anti-union tactic. I’m here.

In an interview with The Guardian, Abruzzo, while avoiding mentioning specific companies, argued that employers give workers higher wages and better benefits than nonunion workers. I was asked if it was illegal to say no. They recently voted to unionize and are about to negotiate their first contract.

“I think it’s unfair labor practices to say that,” Abruzzo said. “I think it’s illegal without a compelling business justification.” “To me, that statement is inherently discriminatory.” prohibits discriminatory or retaliatory behavior against anyone.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce states that Abruzzo has “A Radical Agenda Against Employers”while Republicans on the House Labor Committee denounced her “Clear Disregard for Applicable Case Law” and “unreasonable efforts to further partisan ends.”

Richard Bensinger, one of the Starbucks Union’s main organizers, complains that Abruzzo wasn’t aggressive enough to go after Starbucks. He argues that Abruzzo’s failure to lodge a complaint against Schultz’s threat to deny unionized employees certain pay raises and benefits was a sign of his union’s historic unionization. Said it hurt the propulsion. Starbucks Workers United has organized over 200 corporate-owned Starbucks since the first Starbucks was organized last December. Starbucks has repeatedly denied any involvement in illegal anti-union activities.

To the dismay of the union, Schultz’s threats to deny pay raises and benefits to unionized baristas scared many employees and dampened the union’s momentum. Schultz argues that it is illegal to “unilaterally” impose pay increases and benefits on union members. Without mentioning specific employers, Abruzzo said the benefits are offered to non-unionized employees, but not to union members seeking their first contract. It said it was necessary to provide benefits to employees who were members of the union to give them the opportunity to reject and abandon them. Or accept them while continuing negotiations.

“We must remember that we are a neutral, independent federal agency that enforces worker protection laws,” Abruzzo said. Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP

Abruzzo’s biggest complaint is that the NLRB budget hasn’t been increased in nine years. She said the budget freeze has often made it impossible for the board to act as quickly as she would have liked.

“Since 2014, we have maintained a flat funding of $272.4 million,” said Abruzzo, noting that the Board’s budget has shrunk by 25% since 2014, after accounting for inflation. did. NLRB-run union elections soar 58% in the first nine months of the federal fiscal year – Increased from 1,197 to 1,892, largely due to employees at over 300 Starbucks stores petitioning union elections. The board also brought him 16 percent more unfair labor practice charges (12,819 total) than in the same period last year.

The budget freeze “puts a huge strain on our agency,” Abruzzo said. “We’re dealing with far more work and far fewer resources.” noted that more than half of its regional offices have lost at least two full-time “professionals”.

“I think the public is suffering from our inadequate funding and lack of staff,” she added. We don’t want to be an obstacle at all for the workers who are trying to engage in a difficult activity. may delay the

Abruzzo is happy that Biden and Congressional Democrats have agreed to increase the NLRB’s budget to $319.4 million for fiscal year 2023, but that number has been cut short due to myriad roadblocks to legislation. I fear it will become a mirage. Many Republicans are happy to keep the NLRB underfunded.

One of Abruzzo’s goals is to reverse what she says are inaccurate and anti-worker decisions made by President Trump’s NLRB. “We must remember that we are a neutral, independent federal agency that enforces labor protection laws,” she said. “I really don’t think the majority of the Trump Board took to heart Congress’ mandate to protect workers’ rights to engage in protected and coordinated activities.” She criticized the Trump Board. Narrowing the definition of collaborative, worker-oriented activity and make it easier Company rules that punish workers for speaking out about workplace conditions.

Abruzzo has asked a five-member commission to ban captive audience meetings, sparking major protests from business groups who say such a move violates employers’ free speech rights. I’m here. Abruzzo denies restricting companies’ free speech.

“My employer,” she said. union rhetoric. Noting that workers depend on their employers for their livelihoods, Abruzzo said workers would feel “very scared” about not attending these necessary meetings. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits intimidation or coercion by employers, she noted.

In another move to disrupt business, Abruzzo proposed a return to the 1949 NLRB policy known as Joy Silk. This required employers to approve the union if a majority of the workers signed a vote in favor of the union, unless the employer had a good faith suspicion. Majority legitimacy. “If a union proves that it has the support of a majority of workers in the workplace and employers refuse to recognize representatives chosen by the workers…usually through unlawful coercion or other unlawful practices, union It’s a problem for me, just to undermine the support for .” said Abruzzo. “We cannot allow these employers to delay approval and force these workers to think differently and make different choices.”

Business lobbyists ridicule the legitimacy of card checks, claiming that rogue union supporters bully workers into signing cards. Abruzzo scoffed at the idea. “Many highway employers have agreed to a card-checking process and enjoy very good labor relations,” Abruzzo said. “Employees are not financially dependent on their unions for their livelihoods, unlike they are financially dependent on their employers for their livelihoods. They are less likely to be upset by “bullying” by the union.

Acknowledging that the NLRB’s normal proceedings can be time-consuming, she has been lobbying the Board’s local offices to seek more emergency injunctions, for example, in federal court. All too often, these layoffs are aimed at “nipping the bud of organizing,” Abruzzo said. “Workers involved in organizing activities are subjected to unlawful intimidation, interrogation, surveillance and retaliation on too many a day, and we must act quickly,” she said.

Abruzzo dismisses business lobbyist attacks that she is a pro-union radical. “I have spent about 25 years of my professional career with her NLRB as a civil servant,” she said. “During that time, I have had very productive relationships with managers and labor officials, which I still enjoy. It is mandated by Congress to actively protect the rights of workers to organize themselves, join unions and bargain collectively with representatives of their own choosing.”

Too Radical Or Not Radical Enough? Top U.S. Labor Lawyers In The Spotlight | U.S. Labor Unions

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