On February 1, 2022 National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo announced an initiative to seek injunctions under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act in cases “where workers have been subject to threats or other coercive conduct during an organizing campaign.”  According to her memo, Abruzzo opines that, “because threats or other coercion have a well-recognized inhibitive effect on employees, there is a likelihood of immediate harm to employee organizing efforts.”

The General Counsel stated that injunctive relief would prevent employer escalations from threats to unlawful actions. The initiative will bar employer interference earlier in the unionizing process and would allow unionizing employees to take their employers to court before they can be fired. The memo was issued amidst highly publicized efforts by e-commerce and retail company employees and others in non-traditional industries to unionize, and illustrates the decidedly more pro-union stance of the Biden administration.

From a practical standpoint, employers are advised to communicate cautiously with employees during any union organizing campaigns. The legal rules in these situations are complex and nuanced, and the NLRB now is especially focused on punishing employers who commit unfair labor practices while attempting to stop union organizing with unlawful threats or other coercive behavior.

Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group advises employers regularly on how to navigate communication and negotiation with their employees in the context of organizing campaigns and the shifting rules that apply thereto.