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Labor Board Accuses Tech Startup of Unfair Labor Practices

Aug. 30, 2018, 6:13 PM

Lanetix Inc. discovered that firing a group of unionizing workers only exacerbated its problems now that the National Labor Relations Board has accused the company of unfair labor practices and ordered a hearing.

Unions haven’t made major inroads into Silicon Valley because of the tightly knit and loyalist nature of startup culture.

Lanetix management told the coding engineers it knew they were complaining to each other about hours, wages, and working conditions on Slack, a messaging app common in workplaces, and told them to stop immediately. That’s according to an NLRB regional director’s Aug. 27 complaint obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Several high-ranking Lanetix staff, including CEO John Golob, told groups of employees the cloud services company would “never” unionize, that workers weren’t allowed to talk “negatively” about management among each other, that complaints should be brought “exclusively to management,” and that the company had and would continue to fire workers for union-related activity, the complaint says.

Employees signed onto group letters to management reaffirming their complaints but also continued unionization efforts with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. The Guild submitted a request for recognition on Jan. 16 and filed a representation petition on Jan. 18. Lanetix promptly fired all 13 coders who asserted Guild unit membership on Jan. 26, the complaint says.

If the allegations are true, Lanetix’s instructions and actions would violate the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA governs labor relations and protects workers’ “concerted activities” for “mutual aid and protection.”

The NLRB regional director is seeking a bargaining order because Lanetix’s actions demonstrate a “high likelihood that violations will occur” and Lanetix management would continue to undermine labor relations. The complaint also demands the reinstatement of the fired coders and back pay.

Lanetix will be able to rebut and defend the accusations at a November hearing.

The former coding engineers for the cloud services company spoke to Bloomberg Law in January about the sweeping termination and their initial charge with the NLRB’s regional office.

The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, represents employees of Bloomberg Law.

The Guild Local 32035 is represented by Zwerdling, Paul, Kahn & Wolly P.C., which declined to comment for this article. Lanetix is represented by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, which didn’t immediately repond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

The case is Lanetix, Inc. and Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, Local 32035, N.L.R.B. Reg’l Dir., Case 5-CA-213831, complaint and notice issued 8/27/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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