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NLRB OKs Retaliation Against Workers Who Seek Community Support
Written by Erin Johansson   
May 18, 2006

On May 15, 2006, the Republican majority of the Board ruled that a treatment center for children and adolescents did not retaliate against its employees when it terminated its funding from the United Way after the organization supported employees' bargaining efforts.1  The loss of funding meant fewer hours and less pay for several employees. The majority of the Board concluded that the employer merely acted in response to an "intrusion" by a third party, reversing a 2004 decision of an administrative law judge who determined that this tactic was indeed retaliation.2

The case dates back to 2003, when the Children's Center for Behavioral Development of Centreville, IL, engaged in bad faith bargaining with the employees' union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  In order to pressure the Center to negotiate a fair contract, the union turned to the United Way, an organization which provided funding support for family therapy services offered by the Center.  Shortly after the United Way contacted the Center on behalf of the employees, the Center severed its relationship with the United Way.  The result was an end to the funding, cancellation of the family therapy, and a cutback in the hours and pay for the employees providing those services.   It then sent employees a memo blaming the union for the loss of the United Way funding.  In her dissent, NLRB Member Liebman wrote that the memo "served no purpose other than making sure that employees got the message that they were being punished."
 
With a weak labor law system that allows for pervasive employer intimidation and excessive delays in organizing and bargaining, workers and their unions are turning to those in their community who can support them in their efforts to fairly seek union recognition or negotiate a contract.  Employees should be able to contact third parties to stand in solidarity with and actively voice support for their rights without fear of reprisal.  By allowing an employer to retaliate against its employees for seeking such assistance, the Board has further narrowed options for those trying to improve their working conditions.

Additional Reading

Click here to read the Board's decision (PDF: 9pgs)
Click here to read the ALJ decision 


Timeline of Case

 

December 2002 Contract between the Center and AFT expired 
June 2003  United Way contacts the Center on behalf of employees 
August 2003 Center terminates funding from United Way and eliminates family therapy services 
October 2003  Center sends memo to employees, blaming union for loss of United Way funding 
April 2004  NLRB issues complaint based on multiple unfair labor practice charges filed in 2003 and 2004 
June 2004  ALJ decision issued 
May 2006 Board decision issued 


   
  

   
  
   
   

 

 

 

 

Citations
1. Children's Center for Behavorial Development, 347 NLRB No. 3 (2006).
2. Children's Center for Behavorial Development, JD-61-04 (2004).