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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholds Board decision on pre-recognition agreements

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In a decision issued Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a 2010 National Labor Relations Board ruling that an employer and union did not violate federal labor law by entering into an agreement establishing principles for bargaining if employees selected union representation. 

The case involved an agreement signed by the United Auto Workers union and auto parts manufacturer Dana Corp. setting ground rules for union organizing at a plant in St. Johns, Michigan, and establishing a framework for negotiations if a majority of workers chose the union. After the agreement was signed, several workers filed charges with the NLRB alleging that the agreement constituted an unlawful recognition of the union.  Ultimately, the union did not win majority support and the plant closed, but the case continued.

While acknowledging “thoughtful majority and dissenting opinions” in the 2-to-1 Board decision, the Court deferred to the Board’s conclusion that the agreement did not unlawfully recognize the union and  “did no more than create a framework for future collective bargaining.” It further found that “the Board was within its discretion to allow some substantive terms to be determined between the employer and union prior to recognition, as long as that agreement did not ultimately impact employees’ choice regarding union representation.”

In upholding the Board decision, the Court denied a petition for review filed by two of the workers who originally filed charges.

The Court found that the Board had properly distinguished the Dana agreement from one that was held to be unlawful in Majestic Weaving, 147 NLRB 859 (1964). A press release on the 2010 Board decision is here.

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