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Aug. 18 — The National Labor Relations Board properly ordered a lighting manufacturer to restore work the company transferred to Mexico after its Illinois employees staged a one-week strike over wages, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held ( Amglo Kemlite Labs., Inc. v. NLRB , 2016 BL 266354, 7th Cir., No. 15-3695, 8/17/16 ).
The decision shows the NLRB’s power to fashion remedies for unfair labor practices and management’s need to document that business decisions aren’t taken in retaliation for employees’ protected activity.
Writing for the court Aug. 17, Judge Ann Claire Williams said Amglo Kemlite Laboratories Inc.'s threats and comments supported the NLRB’s finding that the company shifted the work in retaliation for the employees’ legally protected job action.
Amglo argued that the NLRB failed to show how many U.S. jobs were affected by its action, but the court said the employer can raise that objection in a supplemental NLRB proceeding to address “the precise contours of an appropriate remedy.”
Amglo operates factories in Bensenville, Ill., and in Mexico. According to the decision and NLRB records, nearly all of the 94 Bensenville employees, who weren’t represented by a labor union, went on strike in September 2011 after the company failed to respond to their demands for increased wages.
The employees ended the strike in about a week by making an unconditional offer to return to work without a raise.
However, Amglo informed 22 workers their jobs were being transferred to Mexico “because of the situation.”
Acting on an unfair labor practice charge filed by one of the employees, the National Labor Relations found (360 N.L.R.B. No. 51, 198 LRRM 1550 (2014)) that the company violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by transferring work from Illinois to Mexico in response to the strike.
Section 7 of the NLRA generally protects the right of employees, including nonunion workers, to strike. Section 8(a)(1) of the act prohibits employer acts that interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of a Section 7 right.
The board ordered Amglo to restore the transferred work, and the company petitioned for review in the Seventh Circuit.
The employer denied that it acted in retaliation for the employees’ job action, but the appeals court said the NLRB had evidence of supervisory threats and comments that showed the strike was a motivating factor in the company’s transfer of work.
Amglo argued the NLRB never established exactly how much work moved to Mexico or how many employees were affected, but Williams said such proof was not required in the proceeding under review in the Seventh Circuit.
Writing that the NLRB properly found an unfair labor practice occurred, the appeals court said the extent of the violation can be addressed in a supplemental proceeding to determine whether the company has properly complied with the board’s restoration order.
An attorney for Amglo didn't immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA's Aug. 18 request for comment.
Judges William J. Bauer and Lynn Adelman joined in the opinion.
Leland W. Hutchinson in Chicago argued for Amglo Kemlite Laboratories Inc. NLRB attorney Barbara A. Sheehy in Washington argued for the board.
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Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Amglo_Kemlite_Labs_Inc_v_NLRB_No_153695__151141_2016_BL_266354_7t
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