The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Tuesday issued a ruling relaxing the standards for employers to make unilateral changes to employment terms without the union’s consent.
In adopting the “contract coverage” standard, the Board abandoned the “clear and unmistakable waiver” standard, which has been rejected by several federal courts of appeals, including the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has plenary jurisdiction to review NLRB rulings.
Under the “contract coverage” standard, the NLRB will examine the plain language of the parties’ collective-bargaining agreement to determine whether the change made by the employer was within the scope of contractual language allowing the employer to act unilaterally. Under the former “clear and unmistakable waiver,” the NLRB would find that an employer’s unilateral change violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) “unless a contractual provision unequivocally and specifically referred to the type of employer action at issue.
In its decision, the NLRB said the new standard is more consistent with the purposes of the NLRA, “explaining that it will encourage parties to anticipate and resolve potential labor-management issues through comprehensive collective bargaining.”