The Good-Faith Doubt Test and the Revival of Joy Silk Bargaining Orders

62 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2021 Last revised: 22 Jan 2022

Date Written: October 13, 2021

Abstract

The last fifty-two years have borne witness to the swift degradation and virtual irrelevance of the bargaining order. By the end of the twentieth century even pro-enforcement officials in the NLRB were acknowledging the difficulty of obtaining an enforceable bargaining order, and the remedy rarely appears these days in the agency's published decisions.

This is not the product of the usual economic or political factors cited as reasons for the labor movement’s and its attendant regulating schema’s diminishment. Rather, the decline of the bargaining order can be explained almost entirely by the disappearance of the so-called Joy Silk doctrine from the labor law landscape in 1969. Under Joy Silk, the NLRB would order an employer to recognize and bargain with a labor union if the union represented a majority of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit at the time it requested recognition, and the employer denied the request while lacking a good faith doubt as to the union’s majority status and took action calculated to dissipate that majority status. Under closer examination, it has become clear that the NLRB’s abandonment of the good-faith doubt test in favor of the misconduct-centric analysis enunciated in Gissel Packing Co. is intimately connected to the agency’s inability to enforce the law and, as a result, fulfill its statutory mission of encouraging collective bargaining.

This Article addresses the primary objections to the NLRB’s use of the good-faith doubt test in the realm of union requests for recognition that were raised in its heyday and elucidates their lack of historical, legal, and practical foundations. The NLRB’s inquiry into motive in the pre-recognition context was statutorily permissible, logically consistent, and effectively deterrent. Reviving the good-faith doubt test of Joy Silk and enforcing Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA as written would better encapsulate the bargaining orders envisioned in past Supreme Court precedent and equip the NLRB with a tool historically proven to prevent misconduct in elections. Few initiatives in General Counsel Abruzzo’s agenda could prove more effective in carrying forth the Board’s statutory mission.

In the course of writing this Article, the author was hired as a field examiner in the National Labor Relations Board’s Indianapolis regional office. The following analysis represents the opinions and views of the author alone, and does not constitute, nor should it be construed as, representing the views of the National Labor Relations Board, its General Counsel, or any of its Regional offices.

Suggested Citation

Magner, Brandon, The Good-Faith Doubt Test and the Revival of Joy Silk Bargaining Orders (October 13, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3942091 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3942091

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