June 21, 1990
Contractor Can't Use Time Against Union
A contractor that refuses to bargain with the union certified by the National Labor Relations Board as the representative of its employees cannot use the six-month statute of limitations of the federal labor law as a defense, says the board. Each refusal to bargain is a separate offense and does not relate to the initial union demand, it explains.
A three-member NLRB panel stated the board's position in a case involving Bentson Contracting Co., Phoenix.
Following an election, the NLRB on Nov. 22, 1988, certified the laborers' union as the representative of the firms' laborers. The company did not respond to the union's demands to bargain.
When the union filed unfair labor practice charges, the company claimed that the complaint was time-barred under Section 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act. It argued that the union's first bargaining demand was on December 13, 1988, and the charges not filed until Oct. 10, 1989, well beyond the statutory limit.
The NLRB disagreed, noting that Bentson has an obligation to bargain with the union for a year beginning Nov. 22.
"Repeated demands to recognize and bargain during the certification year . . . are not merely reiterations of an initial refusal to bargain, but are separate unlawful refusals based on the obligation to bargain that has been established, both factually and legally, by the board's certification," explained the panel.
"A gap of more than six months between union requests for bargaining . . . , without more, does not constitute special circumstances that would warrant putting the bargaining obligation into doubt."
The board noted that the union requested bargaining on Aug. 9, 1989, and was refused on Aug. 14, making the Oct. 10 charge timely. To ensure that the workers received the full benefit of their selected bargaining representative, the panel said the initial certification period would begin when the firm started bargaining in good faith, which it ordered the firm to do. 298 NLRB No. 14