Nissan, OSHA Settle Union Rep Inspection Participation Dispute

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Nov. 14 — A federal court dispute over allowing union advocates to accompany OSHA inspectors while the agency checks a Nissan North America auto manufacturing plant has been settled, according to a Nov. 14 judge’s order ( In re Establishment of Nissan N. Am. , S.D. Miss., No. 16-mc-0692, 11/14/16 ).

The settlement ends a three-month court fight over whether Nissan had to allow union advocates who work at the plant to participate in the inspection at the request of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A controversial 2013 OSHA letter of interpretation said inspectors may allow worker representatives at nonunion worksites to accompany them during inspections.

The order from Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi says that the three workers OSHA wants to participate in the Canton, Miss., plant inspection can volunteer for the factory’s official safety committee.

After the workers complete orientation training for the safety committee, Nissan won’t object to their participation in the inspection, the order says. Other members of the committee not involved in the court dispute may also participate.

OSHA initially tried to inspect the plant Aug. 8, following a report from Nissan that a worker had three fingers amputated in an accident, court records show. At the request of more than 30 plant workers, OSHA said, it wanted representatives of the pro-union Nissan Workers Organizing Committee to be with the inspector while working conditions were examined.

After Nissan objected to the organizing committee members’ presence, OSHA received an inspection warrant from a federal judge on Sept. 1 approving the inspection and participation of committee members.

On Sept. 19, Nissan asked the judge to quash the warrant. The Nov. 14 order closes the case if OSHA and Nissan abide by the order’s provisions.

The Nissan action isn’t the only court challenge to OSHA allowing union representatives to accompany inspectors at nonunion worksites.

On Sept. 8, the National Federation of Independent Businesses filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas asking the court to approve a permanent injunction prohibiting OSHA from using the 2013 memo to decide who may accompany inspectors ( Nat’l Fed’n of Indep. Bus. v. Dougherty , N.D. Tex., No. 16-cv-2568, 9/8/16 ).

Mark Jicka of Watkins & Eager PLLC in Jackson, Miss., and Thomas Benjamin Huggett of Littler Mendelson PC in Philadelphia represented Nissan North America.

Mitzi Paige of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jackson and Rolesia Dancy and Jean Abreu of the Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta represented OSHA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The Nov. 14 order is available at http://src.bna.com/j4I

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