When workers are organizing a union, an employer can either fight the organizing effort or sign a neutrality agreement. This agreement is a contract between the union, the workers, and the bosses that says the boss will stay neutral in the organizing effort.
However, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb has issued a memo questioning the legality of these agreements.
The memo, which was sent to regional directors, claims neutrality agreements provide support to the union in organizing an unrepresented workforce, which he argues is a violation of Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act. He argues that since it is illegal for an employer to give impermissible support to a decertification effort, it should be illegal for an employer to give “support” during an organizing effort.
However, most people would say that the point of a neutrality agreement is that it allows the employees to make the decision to organize on their own, without the interference of bosses. The point of the neutrality agreement is for the bosses to stay neutral and not choose a side.
While rare, neutrality agreements are a sign of goodwill between the workers and the employer. They are often found in workplaces where other units are organized under the same union or where an employer already knows that the workers are going to vote in the union.
By signing the agreement, the employer is starting off negotiations on a positive footing hopefully allowing for a quick approval process and a quick first contract. These agreements can actually help to build strong relationships between workers, the union, and the employer
Robb is encouraging regional directors to apply his new standard to neutrality agreements with the hope that a case will come before the full board in the coming months. With Trump behind in the polls, Republicans could be in danger of losing control of the board by the summer of 2021, so it seems Robb is trying to push through as many cases as he can to repeal pro-worker rules.