Emory Law Journal

Volume 64Issue : Special
Panel III: Opportunities for Improvement in Changing Times

Labor Law 2.0: The Impact of New Information Technology on the Employment Relationship and the Relevance of the NLRA

Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt | 64 Emory L.J. 1583 (2015)

The NLRA system of collective bargaining was born during the industrial age of the early twentieth century. As a result, key terms in the statute such as “employee,” “employer,” and “appropriate bargaining unit” were first interpreted in the context of long-term employment and large vertically integrated firms that dominated this era. Beginning in the late 1970s, the new information technology wrought a revolution in the organization of production increasing short-term contingent employment and the organization of firms horizontally in trading and subcontracting relationships across the globe. To maintain the relevance of collective bargaining to the modern workplace, the interpretation of the key terms of the NLRA must be updated to recognize the changed circumstances of production and interpret union access and employee mutual support in light of the new technology. However, new information technology promises further changes in the workplace with the accelerating mechanization of many jobs and perhaps a fundamental change in the relationship between labor and capital with the development of artificial intelligence. In this Essay, I explore the implications of new information technology for the workplace, the interpretation of the NLRA, and the continuing evolution of American labor policy.

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‘Depoliticizing’ the National Labor Relations Board: Administrative Steps

Samuel Estreicher | 64 Emory L.J. 1611 (2015)

Complaints about the political forces arrayed against the basic labor laws and about the increasing “politicization” of the National Labor Relations Board are hardy perennials. The charge remains a constant, only those who level it differ depending on which party is in the White House. On the assumption that legislative change is not in the offing, what can the Board on its own do to improve its reputation in Congress and in the courts and, at the same time, enhance its effectiveness as the essential government agency to protect workers in dealings with their employers?

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The NLRB as an Überagency for the Evolving Workplace

Michael Z. Green | 64 Emory L.J. 1621 (2015)

As a result of having this full complement of NLRB members, this Essay asserts that the NLRB has become the premier administrative agency for addressing workplace matters across a broad spectrum of employee–employer concerns. In this respect, the NLRB represents a super—or über—agency that points a spotlight on important workplace issues that no other administrative agency could or should address. With the five appointed members’ outstanding expertise in labor law, as well as in broader workplace concerns under employment discrimination and employment law, these NLRB decisionmakers offer an unusual level of knowledge to operate on the front line in adjudicating perplexing issues that continue to evolve in the workplace.

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NLRB Elections: Ambush or Anticlimax?

Jeffrey M. Hirsch | 64 Emory L.J. 1647 (2015)

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new election procedures represent a comprehensive reform of its representation process. As is the case for many broad reforms, the new rules have prompted significant criticisms and accolades. Many employers have decried the new rules as implementing an unfair “ambush” election process that will deprive employees of needed information and employers of their right to express their views about unionization. In contrast, unions have largely applauded the new rules as an improvement on an election system that they view as stacked against them. The truth appears far less monumental. Although the NLRB’s new rules provide a much-needed update to election procedures and aim to decrease many sources of unwarranted delay, they seem incapable of causing a significant impact on employees, employers, or unions. The new rules should result in a quicker election process, but not so quick that they can be fairly described as “ambush” or a deprivation of employers’ ability to communicate with employees. Moreover, the modestly shorter time periods for elections are unlikely to improve unions’ election win rates or increase union density in a significant way. In short, the NLRB has implemented a modest set of improvements to its representation process, and critics and proponents should not exaggerate the limited impact of those reforms.

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