A QUIZ: WHEN UNIONS’ RIGHTS COLLIDE
Who is right and who is wrong in this situation where the bargaining rights of two unions collided in the parking lot? IFPTE/NAIL reached a deal with the Navy Shipyard in Newport News over revised agency instructions reassigning parking priorities. The agreement was signed, approved by the agency head, and became effective. However, as soon as the agency began reassigning parking spaces it realized that the agreement would result in fewer parking spaces for another union. That union, AFGE, represented employees in a different Navy component that shared a parking lot with the employees working in the component represented by the two unions unaffiliated with AFGE. So, what happens next? Does the agreement reached by the two unions trump AFGE’s rights to bargain over any change before implementation? Did AFGE lose any right to bargain over the change because it was made pursuant to an agreement negotiated with another union? Did AFGE’s rights void the other union’s agreement?
When Navy realized what it had done, it informed IFPTE/NAIL that it was repudiating the agreement because it violated AFGE’s rights. The two unions filed a ULP charge and the FLRA GC sided with them, insisting that their agreement be implemented. It argued that IFPTA/NAIL and Navy had not violated AFGE’s rights because the agreement merely gave a parking “preference” to IFPTE/NAIL employees. The GC said rather than determine the working conditions of another bargaining unit it merely “affected” those conditions–and that did not trigger a bargaining right for AFGE. In essence, the GC argued that once an agreement is signed it must be respected no matter what part of the labor law it violates.
That is a pretty sound legal conclusion, however, both the FLRA ALJ who heard the case and FLRA itself disagreed upholding as more important the principle that the representatives of one unit cannot “directly determine or regulate” the working conditions of the members of another bargaining unit. It did not matter that both units were part of the Dept. of Navy or located on the same installation. And it certainly did not matter that the agreement was signed and approved because like any signed-approved-effective agreement it can be voided in whole or in part whenever a party discovers that the agreement violates law. The same holds true if a conflicting government-wide regulation was in effect before the agreement was effective.
FLRA dismissed the charge and sent Navy back to the bargaining table and presumably back to the prior parking instruction until its two components work cooperatively to figure out how they are going to make a change, inform the unions, and finish bargaining. Navy, Newport News, VA and NAIL/IFPTE, 65 FLRA 1052 (2011)