Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How the NLRB works......

The NLRB was created in 1932 by President Roosevelt; by the "Wagner Act". Section 7 of the Act protects workers right to form and join unions. When a union collects authorization cards from no less than 30% of the workforce, that union can ask the NLRB to conduct a secret ballot election. (That's why it's such a big deal for us to gather those cards!!)
In the motion picture industry the first tough question is "what is the workforce?" Currently, anyone who has worked at a company during the past twelve months, even if only for a short time, is deemed an eligible worker. So, even if a company currently has only one hundred employees, it is possible that more than two hundred past and present workers could show up to vote.
The second tough question is whether any of the workers are "supervisors" or "confidential" employees. We discussed supervisors a few weeks ago; but in short they hire, fire, promote, demote, discipline, and direct the daily work. visual effects supervisors probably fit that category. plate supervisors probably do not. visual effects producers are probably "confidential" employees since they have access to "sensitive" budget and financial information. The company could exclude them from voting. Nevertheless, the IATSE has a strong history of fighting for (and winning) the rights of supervisors to be covered by a union contract.
Okay. After the lawyers get done nitpicking this stuff (yeah, I know, I'm one of those darn lawyers :) ), the NLRB schedules an election. The NLRB counts the ballots and nobody knows how anybody voted. Some smug unions ask one of the voters to vote NO. Just to prevent there being a 100% vote. (If 100% vote YES, then management obviously knows how everyone voted, but if there's only one NO vote, everyone can pretend they're that voter!!!)
Oftentimes, management will protest the results of the election; claiming the union made illegal promises. The most common is that the union promised to waive initiation fees, and that this amounts to a bribe. The NLRB almost always dismisses that complaint unless the Union only waives the initiation fee of those who voted FOR the union.
If the Union gets 50% of the votes, plus one, the NLRB "certifies" the union as bargaining representative. The union then has one year to negotiate a contract. The IATSE has negotiated thousands of contracts. I've negotiated dozens, both as a Union attorney, and, frankly, as a management attorney. There's no guarantee that the IATSE will get everything we ask for. Or, for that matter, ANYTHING that we ask for!! These negotiations are hard fought. But the IATSE has a great research department, and by law, we're entitled to detailed financial information from the employer. So we can get the best deal possible without bankrupting the company or chasing them out of the country.
Please let me know what other topics you'd like to read about.
Until next time,

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