According to employer attorney George Lenard on his blawg, the answer is yes, no, and “it depends,” though he does say it’s not a very realistic outcome.
The company in question is the now-infamous Republic Windows and Doors, late of Chicago but now reincarnated in a place called Red Oak, Iowa, and renamed Echo Windows.
The difference? No United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union in Iowa.
Recall back in December, when Republic abruptly closed down due to a “credit crunch,” the employees refused to vacate the premises until the owner of Republic, a man named Richard Gillman, obtained a line of credit to pay the workers all money due them, including eight weeks of pay under the WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act.
Sure enough, along with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing to cease operations, Gillman provided $1.75 million to settle with the employees.
Case closed, big victory for the union, right?
Not quite, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union smelled a rat and filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The filing requested that the machinery that had been ferreted out of the Chicago plant in the dead of the night to Red Oak and the new factory be returned to Chicago, where Republic might be put back in operation under a potential new owner.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. If Gillman did indeed move his operations to another state to bust the union, then previous court cases (cited by Lenard) grant the NLRB the right to order the old factory to be reinstated with the employees and union in tow.
Lenard doesn’t give this reopening-of-Republic scenario much chance of playing out, but he concludes that it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
With new appointees to the NLRB under Obama surely to be highly pro-labor, I’d say anything is indeed possible.