How to Manage a ULP (Particularly During Union Organizing)

When unions or employers take actions that are illegal according to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), there can be hefty consequences to pay. These unlawful actions are called Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) and are often used by these entities as scare tactics to get the desired action they want from employees. Whether it’s a union threatening an employer with ULPs in the hopes they’ll recognize the union voluntarily, or an employer discouraging union organizing by way of discriminatory practices, unions and employers have used ULPs to tip the process of union organization and matters in their favor. Learning to manage a ULP well is not only necessary, it’s vital to the outcome of the entire process.

Know The Process of A ULP

If an employee or labor union believes your organization is has committed a practice that violates labor laws under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, they have the right to file a charge. The process involves filing a complaint with the ULP charges in the NLRB Regional Office where the incident took place or is occurring. But those who file charges need to do so typically within six months. The NLRB Regional Office (RO) dockets the file, assigns a case number and creates a case file, which includes the case log, affidavits and final investigation report.

The RO also evaluates the allegations and reviews the charges by taking several steps, including reviewing the sufficiency of the charge and whether the case requires further clarification of the ULP charges. Additionally, the RO also takes several factors into consideration before recommending the case for remedy, such as the presence of consistent communication via email or in writing. If all requirements are met, the case may proceed for reccommendation for injunctions or temporary relief, such as in the case of unilateral reorganization.

Liability Also Extends to Unions

Employers are not the only entities that can be found guilty of ULPs. Unions can face this same fate, too. For example, unions may use ULPs as a tactic in the course of waging a corporate campaign. In fact, the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) was found guilty of disparaging and defaming the Professional Janitorial Service of Houston, Inc. (PJS). The union spread information in the local area claiming the company violated the rights of its workers and even filed a class action lawsuit against PJS claiming it violated federal wage laws after PJS required SEIU to hold a secret ballot election in order to represent the company’s workers. This violation cost the SEIU $5 million. While unions may be charged, they often use ULPs to manipulate, frighten and control companies in union organizing campaigns. Auto manufacturer Nissan faced ULP charges by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which the UAW used in effort to organize. Yet, the fear of change and wages close to current union workers’ wages resulted in Nissan workers voting against the union organizing efforts of the UAW.

Manage a ULP

If you receive ULP charge, you’ll need to give a detailed statement to the NLRB and may require witnesses and documents to help your case. It’s important to cooperate with the NLRB and avoid retaliating.. Your responsibilities as a charged party involve communicating appropriately with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This includes participating in an investigation held over the phone. You can also evaluate requests for affidavits and submit evidence via fax.

It’s crucial to use experienced legal counsel to help in your defense and investigation of your in a ULP case so you can correctly conduct interviews of employees and submit your position statement. You have the option to use the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve your ULP case. The ADR ensures you understand the Statute and compliance requirements. It also helps with resolving ULP matters without litigation.

Final Thoughts

Facing ULP charges can be overwhelming. But by enlisting legal counsel, and understanding the process and your responsibilities, you can take appropriate action to manage any ULP charge.

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.

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