South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Technological Obsolescence Does Not Allow a Firm to Dismiss Union Employees
Description Appeals court affirmed an order of the NLRB that a movie theater company reinstate film projectionists who had been fired because they are no longer needed due to computerized operation of movie theaters. The employer had a duty to bargain with the union about the elimination of the positions.
Topic Labor Law
Key Words Duty to Bargain; Transfer of Duties; Reinstatement
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Regal runs movie theaters around the U.S. It wished to convert theaters in several locations from company-run operations with union employees to manager-operated theaters that use fewer employees. Because of computerization, film projectionists are no longer needed. Regal fired projectionists at several unionized theaters. The union protested to the NLRB, which held that Regal acted in bad faith by not fulfilling its duty to bargain before converting to manager-operated theaters that did not need union-member projectionists. It ordered the projectionists reinstated. Regal appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The conversion to manager-operated theaters is a significant change in the structure of the bargaining work unit that requires negotiation with the union. Regal has a duty to bargain with the union over the elimination of the projectionist positions. The NLRB has the authority to order the projectionists to be reinstated.

Citation Regal Cinemas, Inc. v. NLRB, 317 F.3d 300 (D.C. Cir., 2003)

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