United Teachers of Los Angeles (2017) PERB Decision No. 2545-E (Issued on 12/28/17)
I’ve been meaning to discuss this case which was issued late last year. The most interesting issue in this case was the union’s request for a “live reading” order as a remedy to the unfair practices by the employer. In this case, a pair of charter schools were found to have violated the rights of the union and employees when the principal of one of the schools terminated an after-school meeting between a union organizer and teachers, and made coercive statements. The other school principal was found to have refused to allow union organizers to enter into one of the schools to meet with teachers.
The Board noted that this was its first consideration of a “live reading” remedy. A “live reading” remedy is an order that an employer convene its employees during working time and have an agent of the employer read the notice of violation to the assembled group. The Board began by holding that such a remedy is “almost certainly included within the Board’s broad remedial authority.” The Board then discussed the NLRB’s treatment of such a remedy. The Board noted that the NLRB has held that
[T]he reading of a notice by a respondent is an “extraordinary” or “special” remedy that will be imposed only where required by the particular circumstances of a case. [citation omitted] In cases where the NLRB has granted the remedy of notice-reading by a respondent or its representative, the conduct has been egregious. [citation omitted] For example, in one case where the remedy was granted, the employer, during multiple election campaigns, created the impression of surveillance, threatened employees with discharge, told employees the plant would close if a union came in, and had the mayor suggest to employees that unionization would cause the plant to close. [citation omitted]
Here, the union argued that a finding that the violation is “egregious” should not be required for a live reading remedy. Instead, the union argued that a live reading should be ordered if traditional remedies are insufficient. The Board agreed that egregious conduct is not the sole ground for this extraordinary remedy. The Board noted that a live reading may be appropriate if there are low levels of literacy among employees or where there have been repeated violations of law. Here, however, the Board held that none of these factors were present. Accordingly, the Board declined to order a live reading.
- I know of several unions that routinely request “live reading” and other extraordinary remedies as part of an unfair practice charge. I’m glad the Board at least held that such remedies are extraordinary, and not the norm. However, I’m a bit worried that the Board held that it has the jurisdiction to order such a remedy. I think an order for a “live reading” in the public sector poses a lot of issues. It’s one thing to hold that an employer has violated the law and to order remedies. But requiring, for example, a city manager to read a notice from PERB to all the city’s employees is another matter. I think the enforceability of such an order is questionable. But I’m hoping that this will not be an issue any time soon…