NLRB Rules Temps Can't Unionize with Full-Timers

November 30, 2004 ( - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reversed a 2000 decision by ruling that temporary workers can no longer bargain for benefits as part of a unionized unit that also includes permanent employees.

>By a three to two vote last week, the NLRB said there is a difference between temporary and permanent workers, the Washington Post reported. “Thus, the entity that the two groups of employees look to as their employer is not the same. No amount of legal legerdemain can alter that fact,”¬† the ruling asserted.

>The latest NLRB decision overturns  a decision from four years ago that found that bargaining units that combined both temporary and permanent employees were permissible.

>The two NLRB members on the losing side, Wilma Liebman and Dennis Walsh, dissented from the latest decision. They cited the rise of temp workers and argued that those workers would essentially be barred from organizing labor unions unless their employers consented. They said the board has a “disturbing reluctance to recognize changes in the economy and the workplace.”

>Worker advocates say the decision could really hurt in an economy that is relying more and more on the hiring of workers who usually aren’t eligible for health care and other benefits. Lawyers representing companies said the ruling will help employers while not really harming workers. The AFL-CIO said the decision was one of several where the NLRB is “increasingly siding with employers over workers and denying workers their federally protected rights to form unions.”

>However, some experts say the decision will ease confusion among employers. Temporary or contract employees work for an agency that places them with the employer, so they are essentially employed by two organizations at once.