WASHINGTON - The top enforcement official of the National Labor Relations Board, acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, is telling his regional officers to look at employers' "inability to pay" claims and at specific union demands for financial data, simultaneously.
In remarks to the Labor and Employment Relations Association here on June 7, Solomon explained that until now, the board's regions often looked at employer claims that they could not pay for union contract requests separately from the specifics on financial performance in such issues as wages, health care and pensions.
Now, explaining a memo he sent to the regions in May, Solomon wants the regional offices to consider both tracks regarding employers' finances, at the same time.
Solomon's guidance is important because unions often find themselves filing labor law-breaking charges against companies when the firms make financial claims - including claims of "inability to pay" - without backing them up with evidence.
Solomon reminded the regions that when a firm makes such a claim, it must prove it - and that the regions should also look not just at the general claim but at specific circumstances within it, too.
Doing both simultaneously "will, we hope, facilitate collective bargaining and make it more meaningful," he told the pro-worker labor relations group.
"In evaluating information requests related to claims made during bargaining, regions should consider both general claims of an inability to pay and other more limited claims that could be subject to specific verification," concludes Solomon's memo.
"Regions should examine the particular information requests at issue and determine whether they are targeted to the bargaining claims made by the other party and are specifically tailored to those claims," the conclusion adds.
On other issues, Solomon told the association:
The NLRB would continue to challenge state labor laws, pushed by the radical right, business and the GOP, that undermine the agency's nationwide authority over labor relations. Many of those laws ban particular union recognition methods, such as majority sign-up, that the NLRB has authorized for decades.
The charges he filed against Boeing for building its 787 Dreamliner assembly line in anti-union South Carolina "is not about collective bargaining" but about Boeing's retaliation against the Machinists for exercising their rights, he said. An NLRB administrative law judge will open hearings on the Boeing case in Seattle on June 14.