Labor Law forum draws 280 union reps, shop stewards


Another sellout crowd of 280 participants attended the 16th annual Oregon Labor Law Conference Jan. 27 in Portland.

Coordinated by Norm Malbin, general counsel for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, the day-long conference is all about educating union reps, shop stewards, and elected officers on the latest labor laws so they can better represent their members.

A host of labor law experts were brought in to lead workshops. Among the presenters were retired National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director Richard Ahearn; Oregon Employment Relations Board chair Paul Gamson; and labor attorneys Liz Joffe, John Bishop, Nelson Hall, Barbara Diamond, Mike Tedesco, and Cheryl Coon.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker was Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.
In a morning plenary session, management-side attorney Rick Liebman provided an overview of recent employment law court decisions, as well as and update of new statutes and regulations.

One topic Liebman touched on was a new NLRB regulation that has caused a management uproar. The rule requires all private-sector employers to display a poster that explains workers’ rights to form a union under the National Labor Relations Act. The regulation originally was to go into effect Dec. 21, 2010, but the backlash by big business was so intense (the National Association of Manufacturers sued to block it), that it was postponed — twice. It now is set to go into effect April. 30.

“I break ranks with most of my management colleagues in that I see nothing wrong with it,” Liebman told the union audience. “It’s nothing more than what employers have posted for years. We’ve got an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) poster; we’ve got an OFLA/ FMLA (Oregon Family Leave Act/Family Medical Leave Act) poster; we’ve got an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) poster; we’ve got a BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries) poster on wage and hours; a Department of Labor poster — why would this be any different? All it does is tell employees what their rights are.”

Liebman actually advocates for the posting requirement, saying it possibly could possibly ward off a unionizing drive by nipping in the bud early whatever problem a worker(s) might have.

Liebman believes the third time will be the charm.“I suspect this time it will get posted. Most employers have gotten used to the fact that it is coming,” he said.


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