Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is a Union in Your Future?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just announced bad news for the golf industry. As you may know, the NLRB issued its final rule regarding the new employee notice that all clubs must post beginning November 14, 2011 dealing with employees rights to organize and form a union.

To add insult to injury, just this new legislation hit the streets; the NLRB handed down its first ruling that will make it much easier for the union organization process in clubs across the country. In a 3-1 decision, the NLRB has said that unions may now organize smaller subsets of employees in a business. For the golf course industry, this means that a union could organize the golf maintenance staff staff rather than the entire club staff.

Since a union is formed when a majority of employees vote for it, it will be much easier for union organizers to get the 51% they need if they can focus on a smaller number of employees. Clearly, 20 golf maintenance workers is a much more interesting target than going after the entire group of employees at a club that enjoys a large staff of 75 to 100 all encompassing club workers. Once this subset group is unionized, the club will need to negotiate a contract with these 20 while dealing with the needs of the other club workers (golf shop staff, kitchen staff, servers, pool staff, administration staff, etc.) separately.

Such a situation will increase administrative issues for the club and soon push the other club workers to look to unionize when they begin to realize the differences in pay, benefits and/or treatment from the club’s leadership. This is exactly what labor unions have wanted for years and it is why the NLRB has finally given it to them. With the increase in cost of labor clubs and golf will begin to become out-of-reach to more, continuing the death spiral already being experienced at some golf facilities on the edge.

This policy also places the burden on employers to prove that any excluded employees “share an overwhelming community of interest” with those in the proposed union group. So, golf facility leader’s will now have to struggle to include more employees into a proposed union group to help dilute the chance the union will succeed – an awkward and expensive task no facility wants to have to undertake.

What makes this ruling even more regrettable is that there is no direct federal or state court appeal that can be made of an NLRB judicial decision. The only course of action is, an employer will have to be challenged with a union that wants to organize a small subset of workers, let those employees unionize and then refuse to recognize the newly formed union. When that happens, the new union will sue the employer and the employer will then be entitled to argue the NLRB overstepped its authority by allowing this small subset to be unionized in the first place.

In short, this NLRB ruling cannot be addressed until a business decides to accept being slapped with an unfair labor practices lawsuit for failing to accept the new union representation of a small group of its employees.

The NLRB has an agenda that will only cause the golf course industry more and more of a problem as these new regulations and rulings are handed down. The cost of golf will begin to increase as the H2B program remains under assault, health care laws will either fine of force clubs to insure all staff members and labor prices will escalate due to unions and the high cost of imposed increases in wages and benefits.

Powerful forces are at work to change the labor landscape in our industry, it behooves each of us to have a dialog with our appropriate representatives on these small business harming, draconian policies.

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