In late June, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes North and South Carolina) upheld in its entirety an order of the National Labor Relations Board reversing a vote rejecting unionization of an ocean shipping agency. In Evergreen Amer. Corp. v. NLRB, the union alleged that the employer had engaged in a series of illegal practices during the organizing campaign, including unprecedented promotions and pay increases, threats against specific employees, and promises that employee grievances would be addressed if the union was rejected.
The Fourth Circuit rejected all of the employer’s arguments on appeal, finding substantial evidence to support the NLRB’s findings. The court refused to accept the employer’s contentions that the salary increases and promotions were prompted by outside business factors coincidental with the timing of the union election. More importantly, the Fourth Circuit also upheld (with a dissent) the NLRB’s order that the employer recognize the union and begin bargaining negotiations with it. The employer had argued that traditional remedies for unfair labor practices, including a new election, were adequate in this case. The court agreed with the NLRB’s conclusion that absent the unfair practices, the union would have won the close election.
This case is important because the normally employer-friendly Fourth Circuit not only upheld the NLRB’s factual findings, it agreed with the imposition of a bargaining representative on the employer even though the union lost the election six years earlier. This decision may signal a more union-friendly attitude within a court known for upholding employers’ rights in labor litigation.