Two regional National Labor Relations Board offices are being ordered to have an administrative law judge determine whether Toledo's Dana Corp. and the United Auto Workers illegally negotiated contract terms at two factories before employees decided whether to unionize.
NLRB offices in Detroit and in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dismissed various charges shepherded by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation involving so-called card checks at Dana factories in St. Johns, Mich., and Bristol, Va.
The foundation represents Dana workers opposed to unionization at several factories and for years has challenged various aspects of card checks, in which a factory is considered unionized if a majority of employees have signed representation forms. With card checks, no federally supervised election is held.
Dismissals of all other issues regarding the St. Johns and Bristol plants were upheld by the NLRB's general counsel, as were all charges involving a Dana factory in Elizabethtown, Ky.
However, the regional offices are being ordered to file unfair labor practice complaints against Dana and the UAW on the issue of premature bargaining.
Dana and the UAW agreed last year to use card checks to determine whether some of the auto supplier's workers wanted to join the union. Dana workers in Bristol and Elizabethtown are among those who have since decided to join the UAW; those in St. Johns have not.
The foundation said the outcome will affect the enforceability of card check agreements. Not being able to bargain pre-arrangements over substantive terms such as health care and wages makes it hard for unions to offer companies anything in return for card checks, said Justin Hakes, a spokesman for the foundation. "This sort of goes right to the heart of the issue," he said. "We're pleased. We've been waiting on this for several years now."
But labor experts from the University of Michigan and University of Pittsburgh said the complaints involving premature bargaining aren't likely to have an effect on the overall use of card checks. The issues appear procedural, they said.
"I don't see it as being some kind of major issue," said James Craft, a business professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the general counsel's decision contradicts the essential principles of labor law, and the union will contest any resulting complaints.
Workers who decide to choose UAW representation elect a bargaining committee, which then negotiates a tentative contract that is submitted to members for approval, he said.
"We're going to stand up for democracy in the workplace, including the right to bargain," he said in a statement yesterday.
Dana spokesman Gary Corrigan declined to comment on specifics of the expected complaints but said the company will follow whatever determination the NLRB makes.
In another case involving Dana and the UAW, the NLRB continues to consider whether workers opposing unionization have a right to demand an immediate so-called decertification election in card-check situations.
A worker at the Dana plant in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who also is represented by the foundation is the source of that case.
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:
or 419-724-6087.42.36946 -83.11492