The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has loosened the standard of when a unionized employer’s unilateral action in changing the terms or conditions of employment violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

NLRB-issues-new-strategic-planThe Republican board majority adopted a “contract coverage” or “covered by the contract” standard for determining if such unilateral actions run counter to the NLRA. In so doing, the board rejected the “clear and unmistakable waiver” standard, which it said had been ” rejected by several federal courts of appeals, notably including the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”

The decision yesterday ruled that changes could be allowed over a union’s objection if they could reasonably infer as allowable under the “plain terms” of the contract.

“[T]he board will examine the plain language of the parties’ collective-bargaining agreement to determine whether the change made by the employer was within the compass or scope of contractual language granting the employer the right to act unilaterally,” the NLRB said. “If it was, the board will honor the plain terms of the parties’ agreement and the employer will not have violated the act by making the change without bargaining.”