In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Relations Board found that, in a union workplace where there is no collectively-bargained grievance-arbitration system in place, employers generally must give the union notice and an opportunity to bargain before imposing discipline such as a discharge or suspension on employees. Member Hayes was recused from the decision, which issued December 14.
The case involved employees at Alan Ritchey, Inc., which inspects and repairs mail-handling equipment for the U.S. Postal Service at various facilities, including one in Richmond, California. There, a majority of employees had voted in favor of representation by Warehouse Union Local 6, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, but did not yet have a contract. A charge was filed with the NLRB after the employer disciplined an employee for insubordination without consulting or bargaining with the union.
The Board found that long-established doctrine requiring notice and bargaining on discretionary issues should also apply to discipline in such cases, although “based on the unique nature of discipline and the practical needs of employers, the bargaining obligation we impose is more limited than that applicable to other terms and conditions of employment.” The Board applied the new rule prospectively, and so did not find a violation in the present case.
The decision resolved the last of the two-member cases returned to the Board following the 2010 Supreme Court decision in New Process Steel.