A divided National Labor Relations Board has overturned its 30-year-old rule that an employer may withdraw recognition, even without a showing of a loss of majority status, from a voluntarily-recognized union that represents both guards and non-guards (“mixed-guard union”) with respect to a unit of guards.

Adopting a new rule proposed by the NLRB General Counsel and the six Teamsters-affiliated unions which represented Loomis employees at various California locations, the Board holds that an employer of security guards, like other employers, remains bound by a collective-bargaining relationship into which it voluntarily entered unless and until the union is shown to have actually lost majority support among unit employees. Loomis Armored US, Inc., 364 NLRB No. 23 (June 9, 2016). 

Section 9(b)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits the NLRB from “certifying” any union which represents both guards and non-guards as the bargaining representative of a unit of security guards, but does not prohibit an employer from voluntarily recognizing such a union. Historically, the NLRB has held if an employer did so, it could still withdraw recognition from such a “mixed-guard union” if no bargaining agreement is in place, even if the union had not lost majority support among employees.

The Board articulated three reasons for its decision. First, although Section 9(b)(3) prohibits such mixed-guard unions from being certified by the Board, it does not expressly address the situation where an employer voluntarily recognizes a mixed-guard union for a unit of guards, but then seeks to withdraw such recognition.  Second, the Supreme Court has observed that exemptions from NLRB coverage should be narrowly construed so as not to deny the protections of the NLRA to workers.  Third, the new rule will promote the statutory purpose of fostering stable labor-management bargaining relationships.

The new standard will not be applied retroactively. For the foreseeable future, the rights of any employer which is a party to a mixed-guard bargaining relationship are as set forth in Loomis.  As with any other unit of employees, once an employer voluntarily recognizes a mixed-guard union as the representative of its security guards, the employer must continue to recognize and bargain with the union unless and until it can be shown that the union has actually lost majority support among unit employees.  Absent that showing, the Board will hold that an employer’s unilateral withdrawal of recognition from the union will violate the employer’s duty to bargain under the NLRA.