South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Bargaining Unit May Not Be Composed of One Person
Description Appeals court reversed an NLRB ruling. The court noted that the NLRA does not permit one-person bargaining units, so efforts to create a one-person bargaining unit are not protected activities and the employee in question may be fired.
Topic Labor Law
Key Words Unfair Labor Practice; Picketing; Concerted Activity; Dismissal
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts ITS owns a container terminal at the port of Long Beach. As a member of the Pacific Maritime Association, ITS uses longshoremen represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). ITS also employs office workers, a bargaining unit represented by the Office Clerical Unit of ILWU. The company had one billing clerk, Tartaglia, who was not represented by the union. One day the ILWU told ITS that it had one hour to agree to allow Tartaglia to become a one-person bargaining unit represented by the union. The company refused. Tartaglia and union representatives then began picketing ITA. Other employees quit working, bringing operations to a halt. ITS got an expedited ruling from its arbitrator, who held the picket line was not proper. The union ceased picketing, but the company lost about $90,000 due to the work stoppage. Tartaglia was fired. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge. The NLRB regional director, administrative law judge, and the Board all held that ITS was wrong for interfering with a protected activity. ITS petitioned for reversal of the NLRB ruling.

Petition granted. While the courts give deference to the NLRB, they do not rubberstamp its decisions. Its decisions must provide reasoned explanations for decisions, which was lacking in this case. The right to collective bargaining never extended to one-employee bargaining units, and the National Labor Relations Act does not give the NLRB authority to recognize such units. Hence, picketing by one employee who wanted recognition as a bargaining unit, was not protected concerted activity.

Citation International Transportation Service v. NLRB, 449 F.3d 160 (D.C. Cir., 2006)

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