Hunton Andrews Kurth has maintained a traditional labor practice for more than six decades, and has long been one of the premiere “go-to” management side firms for complex representation, collective bargaining, and litigation matters. The Firm’s labor and employment team are seasoned practitioners in complex traditional labor law matters. Our client base includes companies that do not have unions and strongly desire to remain union-free, as well as companies that have historical relationships with organized labor. Our practice therefore includes developing and executing strategies to manage all aspects of complex labor-management relations problems, including responding to and terminating corporate campaigns, union representational proceedings, unfair labor practice charges, labor arbitrations, collective bargaining, and strike contingency planning and execution.
Historically, our team has been at the forefront of labor relations issues before the National Labor Relations Board, federal appeals courts, and the United States Supreme Court. For example, we represented a defense contractor in a successful and groundbreaking constitutional challenge to President Obama’s attempted recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The decision by the Fourth Circuit in that matter was ultimately ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court in Noel Canning v. NLRB. We also represented a large manufacturing company in its successful appeal to the Second Circuit of the NLRB’s order that our client recognize and bargain with the United Steelworkers based on alleged unfair labor practices arising out of the Union’s organizing campaign (i.e., a Gissel bargaining order).
Our attorneys are nationally recognized thought leaders in the traditional labor space. We have weighed in on behalf of amici in some of the most important recent labor cases in the United States, including in Noel Canning v. NLRB (challenging recess appointments to the NLRB); Browning Ferris Industries of California v. NLRB (challenging the NLRB’s joint employer standard), and Volkswagen Group of America v. NLRB (challenging the NLRB’s Specialty-Healthcare “micro-unit” standard).
Collective Bargaining and Strikes
We regularly assist clients in collective bargaining and strike contingency planning. We have served as principal negotiator in involving some of the largest employers in the United States. We have negotiated organizing, collective bargaining and shutdown agreements with virtually every major labor union, including the UAW, SEIU, Teamsters, Machinists, Steelworkers, UFCW, IBEW, Laborers, IAM, United Mineworkers, and a host of other labor unions. For example, we recently concluded labor contract negotiations covering tens of thousands of bargaining unit employees for one of the nation’s largest hospitality companies. We have negotiated organizing process and area master collective bargaining agreements for clients in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, among other places. We have successfully negotiated hundreds of labor agreements in the heavy and light manufacturing, communications, waste disposal, hospitality, coal, trucking, utility, meat packing, warehousing, music, and other industries.
Our experience includes preparation of contingency plans for clients facing potential labor disputes and advise our clients on every aspect of strike contingency planning. We work closely with the client’s security team to address important security concerns and preservation of evidence. We have represented many clients in connection with wildcat strikes, union-sanctioned work stoppages, and picketing activity. This includes picketing at primary sites as well as picketing and hand billing at secondary locations, where the objective is to put pressure on customers of the client. Some of our representative collective bargaining and strike coordinating/response experience includes:
- National strike coordinating counsel for one of world’s largest transportation companies during its last round of collective bargaining negotiations with the Teamsters.
- Lead negotiating counsel for one of world’s largest hospitality companies in collective bargaining negotiations covering over 60,000 employees on the Las Vegas Strip.
- Representing one of nation’s largest grocery chains in collective bargaining negotiations with UFCW.
- Obtained injunctive relief against the Teamsters on behalf of a national carrier where picketing at the company’s distribution centers interfered with vehicle ingress and egress.
- Successful litigation on behalf of a client in a labor dispute that led to two state laws being found unconstitutional, which in turn paved the way for effective police action to halt strike violence.
- Obtained injunctive relief on behalf of a telecommunications company against the CWA in a multistate strike where access routes to various facilities of the company were blocked and company equipment was destroyed.
- Representation in a RICO action based on strike violence that led to successful settlement of labor dispute and execution of favorable CBAs.
- Obtained injunctions prohibiting wildcat strikes and picketing by employees of a chemical company protesting the collective bargaining contract their union had negotiated.
- Obtained injunctive relief on behalf of a shipbuilding company when a large number of its union-represented employees engaged in a strike in breach of the no-strike provision of the labor agreement.
- Obtained injunctions against various building trades unions who engaged in strikes and picketing to protest the assignment of work to nonunion contractors at major construction sites. The unions named in the injunctions included the Carpenters, IBEW, Sheet Metal Workers, Laborers, Plumbers, Painters and Plasterers unions.
We have represented companies in over 500 election petitions. We have substantial on-site campaign experience, and remain in the trenches with our clients until every vote is counted. Our Firm represented one of the first employers to undergo, and succeed in, a union representation election under the NLRB’s “ambush election” rules, and we have since successfully represented numerous other clients in union elections. We have also helped clients to design and implement rapid response plans in order to maximize their ability to manage the compressed election timeframes and onerous administrative burdens imposed by the NLRB’s revised election rules. Our campaign and election victories have involved the UAW, Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE, SEIU, United Mine Workers, Carpenters, IBEW, Paperworkers, OPEIU, CWA, and others. Some of our representative experience includes:
- A national building supply company’s victories over the Teamsters in a series of elections at distribution locations in several eastern and mid-western states.
- A wholesale food distribution company's win over the Teamsters in a voting group of more than 400 employees.
- Two campaigns for an airport shuttle company involving the Teamsters.
- An election for a chemical transportation and storage company in Houston, TX involving 100 employees and the Teamsters.
- A decisive victory over the IBEW in the union's effort to organize white-collar employees at a southeastern-based power company. This election involved a unit of more than 5,000 employees at 63 voting locations.
- A UFCW election at one of the world’s largest food processing facility located in North Carolina, involving over 4,500 employees.
- A retail food company's win over the UFCW in a multistore campaign that targeted more than 500 employees.
- A national discount mall’s victory over the UFCW in a 200-employee voting unit.
- An electric power company’s win over the IBEW in an NLRB election involving more than 3,500 employees.
- A hotel resort's victory over the Hotel Restaurant and Bartenders Union in a 500-employee voting unit.
- A national clothing company’s victory over UNITE in a 2,300-employee voting unit covering seven manufacturing locations in two states.
- Decisive election victories over the IBEW in three voting units involving more than 2,300 craft and technical employees.
- A lengthy IBEW election for a gas and electric company that involved approximately 2,000 employees across multiple facilities.
- A large paint and coating manufacturing company’s victory over UAW in an election outside Detroit involving 175 production employees.
- A UAW election on behalf of a machine manufacturer involving 300 employees in Cherry Hill, NJ.
- A global packaging company’s wins over the GCIU in a series of elections involving employees in Virginia, Illinois and Kentucky.
- An overwhelming victory for a power company in an organizing attempt by the IBEW at the company's nuclear plants in North and South Carolina involving over 650 employees.
- An industrial aluminum company’s victory over the USW in a high stakes election involving about 600 employees at the company’s flagship Oswego, NY aluminum manufacturing plant.
- An election for a large national home retailer in Staten Island, NY involving 120 voters.
- A recent card mitigation campaign on behalf of a grocery store client involving a bargaining unit of approximately 500 employees at a large distribution center outside Albany, NY. The election involved the UFCW. Ultimately the workers did not get enough cards signed to file the application to hold election.
Unfair Labor Practice Charges
We have handled hundreds of complex unfair labor practice charges for employers in various industries throughout the United States, and in nearly every NLRB Region. We have a track record of successfully defending our clients and are skilled at advising them on how to meet their business objectives through measures that are compliant with applicable law. Some of our representative experience includes:
- Representation of a global packaging company that was charged by the Steelworkers with violating the NLRA when it unilaterally changed the plan administrator of a company-sponsored health care plan. In this instance, charges were filed by the union in several regions of the NLRB. We were successful in obtaining either outright dismissal of the charges or deferral to the grievance procedure of the applicable labor contracts.
- Successful representation of a large paper company in numerous charges by the Steelworkers concerning the employer's unilateral implementation of terms and conditions as a result of impasse.
- Successful defense of a marine design company in its withdrawal of recognition of a union after the union engaged in activity we believed violated the rights of represented employees. Charges that the company violated the NLRA by withdrawing recognition were dismissed, and the union ultimately lost its representational status.
- Successful defense of an employer charged with violating the NLRA when it eliminated a companywide benefit plan that covered both union and nonunion employees. The union asserted the company’s decision to discontinue the benefit was a mandatory subject of bargaining. Following months of investigation by various regions of the NLRB, all charges were dismissed or withdrawn with prejudice. This matter involved Regions 6, 10, 11, 15, 16, 25, 26, 30 and 34 of the NLRB.
- Representation of an auto parts manufacturer in a complaint proceeding based on charges by the IAM that employees who had engaged in a strike were illegally discharged. Following two days of testimony, the case against our client was dismissed.
- Successful representation of a national food processing company in a complaint proceeding over the termination of various employees who engaged in misconduct in the context of an organizational campaign by the UFCW. This case was ultimately decided in the company’s favor in a decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
We handle labor arbitrations that are processed through the grievance/arbitration procedure of collective bargaining agreements. Collectively, we have handled more than 1,500 labor arbitrations for clients in virtually every industry and involving every type of disciplinary and contract language issue. The cases that we are retained to handle typically involve controversial matters or significant labor-management business disputes.
In recent years, labor unions, advocacy groups, and other NGOs have turned increasingly to the use of public pressure strategies to influence the direction of corporate, human relations and other policies within American businesses. “Corporate campaigns,” as they are commonly known, involve a broad array of strategies and tactics designed to place financial, legal, operational, and social pressure on a target company in order to force that organization’s compliance with the demands of the campaigning group. Union-driven corporate campaigns typically involve ulterior bargaining or organizing objectives, such as capitulation to bargaining demands, forcing acceptance of organizing agreements or ousting nonunion employers from certain business segments or markets. While the objectives may vary, the tactics used are often the same, and they are often highly sophisticated.
We have a highly distinguished track record of advising companies and trade groups facing the threat of corporate campaign attacks. We have devised corporate governance, public relations, labor, and litigation solutions for some of the most influential corporations and trade groups in the world. In addition to helping manage such campaigns, we have successfully used litigation strategies to bring these campaigns to a halt. Some of our representative experience includes:
- Initiation and prosecution of a successful civil RICO action against a labor union, union executives, and affiliated labor organizations in response to a multiyear, multifaceted corporate campaign against a Fortune 100 company.
- Representation of an international food service client with over 200,000 employees in the prosecution of claims under civil RICO against the UFCW, its officials and affiliates, challenging the legitimacy of union tactics and actions during a corporate campaign designed to force the organization of the client’s food processing facility (the largest of its kind in the world) without an NLRB election. The Union ended its corporate campaign and agreed to an NLRB-sanctioned election on the eve of trial in the RICO action.
- Representation of an international multi-services client in its response to a worldwide corporate campaign conducted by the SEIU. The Union had demanded that our client allow 30,000 of its U.S.-based hourly employees to join the Union through forced neutrality and card check agreements, and without NLRB-sanctioned elections. The Union terminated its campaign on favorable terms after our client filed a civil RICO lawsuit to challenge the Union’s unlawful tactics.
- Regular advisor to national and international companies and trade groups facing union corporate campaigns and other nontraditional organizing activity, including customer and product boycotts and shareholder activism.