Morgan Lewis

Labor-Management Relations and Labor Disputes

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Our experience dealing with labor unions makes our lawyers invaluable in a wide variety of labor-management relations matters under both the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Railway Labor Act (RLA). As trusted advisors to businesses of all sizes—including some of America's largest companies—in nearly every industry, we understand what is required when navigating labor-management issues. We also regularly practice before all related federal, state, and local agencies, including the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service (FMCS), the National Mediation Board (NMB), and the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Our counselors and litigators are at the forefront of the most critical labor issues facing employers today—in both union and nonunion workplaces. Members of our practice have provided congressional testimony, commentary, and representation and support in litigation related to labor law issues. Most recently, Morgan Lewis lawyers have been involved in matters such as the NLRB rules governing "quickie" election procedures and an employee-rights notice posting, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rulemaking concerning so-called "persuader" reporting under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), and the enforceability of class action waivers.

Specific Areas of Practice:

Collective Bargaining Negotiations

Morgan Lewis's lawyers combine knowledge of labor unions across industries with negotiating experience and pragmatism to manage and resolve the most difficult bargaining situations. We are effective both at the table and in a "behind the scenes" role. Understanding our clients' businesses and business objectives, we partner with companies to help them achieve resolutions that provide for long-term business success. Our lawyers have experience negotiating in both the public and private sectors, and with national, regional, and local collective bargaining agreements. In addition to representing employers in more traditional collective bargaining negotiations, we also have significant experience with multilocation and multiemployer bargaining in a variety of industries.

Contract Disputes and Enforcement

We regularly represent clients in labor arbitrations and mediations arising under their collective bargaining agreements. These representations range from "bet-the-company" restructuring cases to more routine employee discipline and discharge matters. In either circumstance, we bring the right lawyers and experience to the representation.

Corporate Campaigns

Designed to malign an employer's or industry's reputation, a corporate campaign employs political, community, and corporate strategies to further a union's organizing and bargaining goals. We work with our clients to develop a comprehensive plan—often before a potential campaign even begins—that includes threat assessments, strategic communications, briefing materials, daily counseling, litigation support, and strategic advice to counteract potential and actual corporate campaign maneuverings.

Appellate Litigation Practice

Our Appellate Litigation Practice focuses on providing both strategic and litigation support on cutting-edge labor law issues in matters before the federal courts and administrative agencies. Over the years, we have represented parties, amici curiae, and interveners in a variety of labor matters. Most recently, Morgan Lewis lawyers were involved in litigation concerning the NLRB's "quickie" election rules, notice posting requirements, and decision involving class action waivers.

Railway Labor Act

For more than four decades, Morgan Lewis has assisted air and rail carriers in their labor relations under the RLA. Our experience is diverse, ranging from representing a single carrier in a representation dispute before the NMB, to counseling an entire industry in national collective bargaining negotiations. Our RLA Practice has used all forums of dispute resolution, including federal court litigation and boards of arbitration in both "rights" and "interests" disputes. Our past experience, coupled with the particular capabilities of our attorneys, allows us to partner with employers to find creative solutions to labor and employment issues that arise in the railroad and airline industries. We also advise clients in connection with "major" and "minor" disputes as well as challenges to carriers' rights to change or interpret the "status quo," and with respect to rates of pay, rules, and working conditions.

International Labor Relations

In contrast to the United States, union and other employee representation is much more prevalent and even growing in other countries. With an international footprint of labor and employment lawyers that includes offices in London, Paris, and Frankfort, we have the ability to handle a wide variety of international labor and employment issues. We advise clients operating internationally on the extraterritorial application of U.S. and foreign labor laws, and on the impact of European and global works council initiatives.

Labor Law Counseling

Our lawyers are trusted advisors to employers in a variety of industries across the United States. In recent years, the proliferation of union-friendly regulations that impact both unionized and nonunionized employers has made our role as trusted advisors even more important. Morgan Lewis attorneys are at the forefront of these issues, routinely testifying before Congress on key public policy issues and providing strategic advice to our clients on the potential implications of these new developments. From the interplay between social networking and protected concerted activity, to the enforceability of arbitration agreements and class action waivers in the nonunion setting, to the implications of microbargaining units and notice posting and persuader regulations, our attorneys help clients navigate all aspects of U.S. labor law.

Multiemployer Plans

Morgan Lewis represents more than 50 Taft-Hartley trust funds in a variety of industries. Our attorneys bring not only technical knowledge of ERISA and Internal Revenue Code, but also a deep understanding of the relationship among ERISA, U.S. labor law, and the collective bargaining process. As trust fund counsel, we regularly provide legal advice on all aspects of Taft-Hartley fund administration.  We also represent the trust funds and their trustees in court and before regulatory agencies, including the DOL and the Internal Revenue Service.

NLRB Proceedings

Morgan Lewis attorneys routinely handle both representation and unfair labor practice proceedings before the NLRB, including administrative trials and hearings. With attorneys and clients located across the country, we have experience dealing with virtually all NLRB Regional Offices. We also have experience dealing with the Division of Advice and General Counsel in Washington, D.C.

Project Labor Agreements

For decades, Morgan Lewis, representing owners and major contractors, has worked with the national and local building trade unions to develop project labor agreements (PLAs) covering large-scale construction projects. Our attorneys were at the forefront in developing the PLA approach, and have negotiated some of the largest and most notable of these agreements. We also have advised clients regarding the successful implementation and administration of these agreements. We have also successfully defended PLAs in state and federal courts from challenges to their constitutionality and legality under the NLRA, ERISA, and various state and federal procurement statutes.

Strike/Lockout Support

We counsel clients in connection with strike and lockout contingency planning, designing communications in a strike or lockout context, obtaining injunctions in cases of striker misconduct or other unlawful union or employee activity, and negotiating strike settlement agreements.

Union Organizing

Responding to a union organizing campaign requires a careful understanding of the nature of union campaigns, the strategic options available, and the law applicable to union organizing.

In addition to assisting employers with union organizing campaigns and related litigation, Morgan Lewis attorneys regularly provide strategic advice designed to promote positive employee relations, avoid union penetration, and strategically shape bargaining units to minimize any potential union organizing wins. Morgan Lewis lawyers also have extensive experience with sophisticated card check and neutrality agreements, which for some employers represent the right compromise with respect to union organizing.

Workforce Change

We regularly advise clients on the labor relations issues arising out of mergers, spin-offs, divestitures, and reductions in force. In this context, complex questions often arise concerning obligations to recognize and bargain with unions, the establishment of initial wages and other employment, and the adoption of existing union contracts. We provide advice designed to help clients achieve their business objectives while navigating the intricacies of a unionized workforce, protecting against potential litigation challenges, and, if necessary, defending in litigation.