Monday, April 15, 2024

One bourbon, one union election, and one Cemex bargaining order

One bourbon, one union election, and one bargaining order … is what an NLRB ALJ told Woodford Reserve Distillery last week. The judge held that the distillery violated federal labor law by undermining its employees' unionization efforts and ordered the distillery to bargain with its employees as their remedy.

Shortly after the employer learned of its employees' unionization efforts and within a month of the election, the employer announced a $4 per hour raise and changes to its raise and vacation policies, and also gifted bottles of bourbon to its employees. The NLRB ALJ noted that employees called these to be "bribes," which worked because "interest in the campaign plummeted immediately after." The union went from having signed authorization cards from 36 of 60 employees to losing the election by a vote of 45 to 14, a 62% decrease in support.

The ALJ wrote, "In light of the violations and their lasting effect on employees, I do not believe that traditional remedies will sufficiently deter their recurrence." As a result, he ordered the employer to bargain with the employees instead of ordering a re-run election.

This is what the future of union elections looks like. Recall that the NLRB's recent Cemex decision authorizes the NLRB to certify the union as the employees' representative and issue a bargaining instead of directing a second, re-run election if an employer commits any unfair labor practice prior to an election that would require the Board to set the election aside. The Woodford Reserve case shows this new legal standard in action.

Bargaining orders are the future of NLRB union elections. Just ask Woodford Reserve. And if you're not running clean campaigns to oppose your employees' unionization efforts, you will likely find yourself in the same place as Woodford Reserve, sitting across the bargaining table from your employees no matter the result of the election.