For a bit of a pleasant change, there’s some positive labor relations news for employers on the legislative front. But it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.

As we explained previously, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives included provisions in their original reconciliation spending package that would have amended the National Labor Relations Act to require civil penalties for a variety of currently lawful employer actions.  Employers, for example, would have been subject to fines of up to $100,000 for the following:

  • Hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike.
  • Instituting lockouts during contract negotiations.
  • Requiring employees to attend informational meetings on what it means to be represented by a union and the potential impact of unionizing (commonly referred to as “captive audience” meetings).
  • Advising an employee that he/she is an independent contractor, if he/she is not properly classified as such.
  • Requiring employees to sign class action waivers, a common feature of individual arbitration agreements.

The good news for employers is that the latest version of the reconciliation spending package, released yesterday, drops the proposed new violations listed above.

It’s not all good news, however. First, the package remains subject to further negotiation. So, while it seems unlikely, the proposed list of new violations might be resurrected in a later version of the package.

Second, while the proposed new violations have been dropped (at least for now), the latest version of the reconciliation spending package still provides for civil penalties of $50,000 to $100,000 for employer unfair labor practices as currently defined in the NLRA.

Finally, the new version of the package retains the provisions that provide for potential personal liability for directors and officers.

TAKEAWAYS: From an employer labor relations perspective, the best that can be said of the new reconciliation spending package is that it’s not quite as bad as the prior version. But even in its current form, the legislation will tilt the playing field further toward organized labor.