Following up on our earlier post about all the moves President Biden was making at the NLRB General Counsel’s office, we now know that our temporary NLRB GC is Peter Song Ohr. Ohr is known as a straight shooting, publicity avoiding, no nonsense career NLRB lawyer, who strongly believes that the NLRA was enacted to promote the unionization of the American workforce and promote the benefits of collective bargaining.
As Acting NLRB General Counsel, Mr. Ohr made his first big move late last week when he directed the Board to dismiss a complaint against an Embassy Suites hotel and the Seattle Unite Here local. The case involved a neutrality agreement between the union and hotel. Neutrality agreements are contracts that limit an employer’s rights to campaign against union organization and require the employer to remain neutral, thereby easing the path to organization. Unions often put political pressure on employers in certain industries to sign them. In fact, here in California, any cannabis employer with more than twenty workers is required to sign a neutrality agreement simply to get a state license to operate. Without executing a neutrality agreement, or signing a notarized statement indicating that the employer will sign such an agreement, a cannabis operator in California cannot obtain a license to operate.
Former NLRB GC Peter Robb was using the Embassy Suites/Unite Here case to try to limit the legality of such neutrality agreements nationwide. Acting NLRB GC Ohr’s action in dismissing the case demonstrates the significant influence Biden’s decision to fire Peter Robb and replace him with Peter Song Ohr is likely to have on our labor laws. While this move does not change any existing law, it prevents a significant change that was likely to occur (making neutrality agreements unenforceable or at least significantly limiting their enforceability). If you are interested, a copy of the Region 19’s Regional Director’s Order to dismiss the case, following Ohr’s directive, is available here.
This is likely just the beginning of things to come from Ohr and the NLRB, when it comes to decisions that are going to push back against the pro-employer environment that existed in the labor law field the last four years. Unionized and non-unionized California employers need to keep an eye on what is going on at the NLRB to understand how these changes will influence their policies and practices. We will continue to keep you updated on the key developments at the NLRB and modifications to traditional labor law that will continue throughout the Biden/Harris administration that are relevant to Golden State employers.