Union Avoidance and Contract Negotiation

Butler Snow’s Labor and Employment team has decades of experience in assisting employers in many industries to prevent the causes of unionization and successfully resist union organizing.  As unions have declined over the past three decades, the actual experience of most law firms in this practice area has diminished.  However, our team includes attorneys with substantial experience combating a variety of unions that are currently particularly active.

Our labor attorneys understand the root causes of unionization and can assist employers quickly in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities.  Our firm is eminently qualified, experienced and poised to meet any union challenge employers might face.  We have worked with our clients to defeat union organizing attempts at acute care hospitals, distribution centers, food processing and production and manufacturing facilities.

Beyond representing clients before the National Labor Relations Board, we advise clients at every step of the union’s campaign and assist with implementing an effective communication plan to address issues and educate employees on the benefits of working in a union-free workplace.  In addition to union avoidance, we have also successfully advised clients on withdrawing recognition of a union and in the decertification election process.  The scope of our practice is national and we represent clients from California to Massachusetts to Florida and most states in between.

Union organizing campaigns can be disruptive, costly and time consuming.  We recognize employers would prefer to avoid a union campaign altogether.  Our attorneys are skilled in conducting labor assessments, both periodically and in special situations where employers confront heightened risks due to reorganizations, mergers, closures, outsourcing, reductions in force and introductions of new operating methods and human resources policies. We conduct preventive labor relations training for all levels of leaders.  By educating our clients how to recognize and legally and effectively respond to union organizing activity, we are often able to stop campaigns before a petition for an election is filed.

We use our expertise to attempt to stop the campaign at its earliest point.  For one of our clients in the forest products industry we were able to terminate the campaign after the initial hearing before the NLRB.  The United Mine Workers Association was seeking to represent/organize only a small group (micro-unit) of the employer’s workplace.  We were able to convince the NLRB that the petitioned-for unit was not appropriate and that the only appropriate voting unit included all employees.  The union’s election petition was dismissed, the organizing efforts stopped and no election was held.

Over the past decade, unions have increasingly resorted to “corporate campaigns” to bring political, religious, community, and economic pressure against employers either to recognize unions voluntarily or to agree to “neutrality” agreements.  We work with employers to  successfully resist such campaigns and have assisted employers in dealing with events such as marches led by state legislators, active campaigning on behalf of a union by an activist state Attorney General, campaigning for a union by a U.S. Presidential candidate, candlelight vigils, and union-friendly public appeals by religious leaders.

Our team is consistently on the front line in combating new methods of organizing throughout the country. Our experience includes elections in groups with many ethnicities, including elections in which voters are predominantly Filipino, Chinese, Hispanic, Latino, African-American or European-American and with voting units ranging from 10 to over 500 employees.

Our attorneys have significant success in defeating unfair labor practice charges in a variety of circumstances, ranging from construction union “salting” efforts to allegedly discriminatory layoffs.  After failing to persuade employers to recognize it as the bargaining representative of pilots operating barges along the inland waterways (primarily the Mississippi and Ohio rivers), a union initiated a strike against multiple barge lines.  By establishing that the pilots were supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act, we successfully defended employers alleged to have threatened and/or terminated pilots for participating in the strike and/or otherwise supporting the union.

Based on their unique business considerations or because they have an established union relationship, some employers opt to enter into neutrality agreements which provide nontraditional mechanisms for recognition of unions, and in some cases, for negotiation of collective bargaining agreements.  We assist such employers in crafting accords and procedures outside the traditional NLRB procedures.  We also have experience in non-traditional negotiations, including interest arbitration.

We have a team of attorneys experienced in negotiating labor contracts. Depending on the client’s needs and circumstances, we appear as chief spokesperson at the bargaining table or act as advisors to the company’s negotiating team.  We develop contract proposals and assist in developing strategies to minimize contractual restrictions on management’s operational prerogatives.  We have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with virtually every union, including, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), United Steel Workers of America (USWA), International Association of Machinists (IAM), the California Nurses Association (CNA) and United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Our firm provides advice and assistance on contract administration and grievance handling and represents employers in labor arbitration hearings. We also assist employers faced with strikes, boycotts, and picketing.  Our attorneys have experience in obtaining state or federal court injunctions, pursuing unfair labor practice charges against a union, or developing strike contingency plans. Our team also has the knowledge and expertise to assist employers with strategies for continuing business operations through the duration of labor disputes.

We represent employers seeking to purchase or acquire unionized facilities, providing guidance and counsel on issues including successorship, potential bargaining obligations and any obligation to recognize the prior union.