Fourth Circuit Upholds Labor Arbitration Decision and Two-Member NLRB Decision

The Fourth Circuit has recently published two labor law opinions, the first concerning whether an arbitrator exceeding his authority in resolving a grievance, and the second concerning whether to uphold a decision of the two-member National Labor Relations Board.

In PPG Industries v. ICWUC/UCFW, the union had filed a grievance because the company had failed to pay bonuses as set forth in the Bonus Plan to workers who had gone on strike. At issue was whether the term "actively employed" in the Bonus Plan encompassed striking workers. The arbitrator found that it did. Courts must uphold the decisions of labor arbitrators unless they have exceeded their authority. As the arbitrator here reasonably interpreted the Bonus Plan, his decision was upheld by the court.

In Naricott Industries v. NLRB, the Fourth Circuit considered the propriety of the two-member Board. Because replacements for three of the NLRB's board members have not been approved by Congress for quite some time, the Board has been operating with a two-member quorum. As long as those two members can agree, the Board has been issuing decisions. Whether the two-member board is actually authorized to act under the NLRA has been litigated in several circuits. Two circuits have ruled that it is proper, while the DC Circuit has ruled that it is not. The Fourth Circuit joined the majority, following the interpretation espoused by the Board as well as DOJ. In any event, the Supreme Court will soon make a final decision on this issue. In the remainder of the opinion, the court upheld the Board's conclusion that the company had committed unfair labor practices by actively assisting an effort to decertify the union, and its order requiring the company to bargain with the union.