April 3, 2012
It seems almost counter-intuitive to think of union memberships for temporary workers. Temps, by definition, are not employed by a company but provide services for time periods ranging from a few hours to several months. They work for just as long as they are required to and vanish when they are needed no longer. This situation makes it difficult for them to even make friends, forget about becoming active members of unions, or so it would seem!
Not really, because the NLRB allows temps to join the same union as the permanent workers at the company even without obtaining permission from the staffing agency that assigned them. Earlier, it was required of temporary workers to apply for permission to their agency and of course, the permissions never materialized. With the growing use of contingent workers, the NLRB is keen to implement a public policy which balances concerns of flexibility and productivity with economic security and fairness for the workers, through regulations which are bound to be implemented with greater vigor than ever, through encouraging private employees to form unions.
When a company exercises day-to-day control over temporary workers who work side-by-side with permanent employees, the law typically views the temps as joint employees of the staffing agency and the work-site company. NLRB provides unions with the means to challenge any inappropriate use of temps by their company when it seeks to dilute worker bargaining power. When permanent and temporary employees work alongside of each other and are managed under the same control – as joint employees – the temp may be included in the terms of the existing union contract and be governed by the same rules, working conditions and even benefits under the terms of an existing union contract.
An employer has a statutory obligation to apply the contractual terms negotiated with the union to all the workers on site, the extent that those terms regulate their working conditions under its control. The board however has nothing to add with regard to the differential wages between permanent and temporary workers and allows the staffing company to stipulate the rates. The overtime and hours of work are governed by the union contract.
There is a concerted movement through unions like National Association of Part-time and Temporary Employees (NAPTE) to gain better rights for contingent workers like:
- Pay parity
- Better work-life balance through better scheduling and flexible hours
- Minimum wages to support standard of living
- Fringe benefits
- Portable health and retirement benefits
- Unemployment compensation
- Protection from misclassification
- Health & safety at the workplace
- Better treatment at work
Regular Unions say they protect the rights of every single worker in the country to pensions, wages and benefits they deserve. Auto unions wish to protect the thousands of temporary workers in the industry from their job insecurities by gaining them a permanent status. Just last week, UAW Local 598 – the union at GM’s Flint manufacturing plant has gained itself 235 full-time members by negotiating with the management to have long term, on-again, off-again temporary workers join the plant as full time hires to fill up roles vacated by retirements and re-location of workers. This seems to augur the shape of things to come in the way contingent workforces gain the necessary backing from labor unions which seem to be making their way back into the United States.
Will the NLRB’s posting requirements of private employees’ right to unionize encourage the formation of a large number of unions?
The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.