Lareau on UGL-UNICCO Service Co.: The Saga of the Successor Bar

Lareau on UGL-UNICCO Service Co.: The Saga of the Successor Bar

In August 2011, in UGL-UNICCO Service Co., the NLRB reinstituted the successor bar doctrine (precluding a challenge to the incumbent union's majority status for a reasonable period of time), although with modifications, defining a reasonable period of bargaining during which the successor bar doctrine precludes challenges to the incumbent's majority status. In this analysis, N.P. Lareau traces the doctrine's history and recent developments.



Since 1975, the National Labor Relations Board has vacillated on whether the majority status of a recognized union is subject to challenge when control of a business is assumed by a successor employer. The changes in the Board's position have generally paralleled changes in political control of the Board. In this analysis, N. Peter Lareau, author of NLRA: Law and Practice and numerous other books and articles in the field of labor law, traces the development of the law in this area, including the Board's most recent pronouncements on the issue.

Southern Moldings: No Successor Bar

In its 1975 decision in Southern Moldings, Inc., the Board held that the voluntary recognition bar rule enunciated in Keller Plastics Eastern, Inc., applied only to the initial organization of an employer's employees and was not applicable when a successor employer voluntarily recognized the union that represented the predecessor's employees. It reasoned that a successor employer stands in the shoes of the predecessor employer respecting the union and that it did not make sense to grant the union greater rights respecting its representation of employees than it possessed with respect to the predecessor employer.

Landmark International Trucks: A Period of Uncertainty

Six years later, in Landmark International Trucks, Inc., the Board receded from this position. There, a successor employer, after having extended recognition to the union representing the predecessor employer's employees, withdrew that recognition six weeks later, asserting that it had a good faith doubt regarding the union's majority status. Citing, inter alia, Keller Plastics, the Board concluded that the withdrawal of recognition violated the Act:

It is well-established Board law that, once an employer has voluntarily recognized a majority union, that union becomes the unit employees' exclusive bargaining representative with which the employer is bound to bargain, and that withdrawal by the employer from its commitment to recognize the union without affording a reasonable time for bargaining violates the employer's bargaining obligation. Such a requirement to continue bargaining serves to effectuate the policies of the Act by offering the parties a reasonable opportunity to negotiate successfully and to execute an agreement.

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