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
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
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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