United Rentals : NLRB Regional Director Issues Decision on United Rentals

09/30/2017 | 12:34pm

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 -- The National Labor Relations Board issued the following decision by Regional Director on United Rentals:






Case 05-RC-204456


On August 15, 2017,1 International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 37, AFL-CIO (the Petitioner) filed this petition seeking to represent a certain employees of United Rentals, Inc. (the Employer). The petition seeks a bargaining unit of "all full-time and regular part-time drivers, equipment associates, and field service technicians employed by the Employer at its Baltimore City, Joppa, Annapolis, and Frederick, Maryland facilities (i.e. Baltimore metropolitan/hub facilities), excluding all other employees, inside sales representatives, outside sales representatives, office clerical employees, professional employees, guards, and supervisors as defined by the Act."

The Employer filed a Statement of Position on August 23 to contest the scope of the petitioned-for bargaining unit. To summarize, the Employer challenged the appropriateness both of a multi-facility bargaining unit and of the grouping of the included job classifications.

A hearing was held before a Hearing Officer of the National Labor Relations Board on August 29. The parties stipulated, and I find, that the Petitioner is a labor organization within the meaning of Section 2(5) of the Act, the Employer is an employer engaged in commerce within the meaning of Section 2(2), (6), and (7) of the Act,2 and that the Board has jurisdiction over this matter. However, the parties were unable to agree to any stipulations with respect to the bargaining unit. Both parties submitted written briefs on September 6 in support of the evidence that they presented at the hearing.

As described below, I conclude that a unit consisting of all regular full-time and regular part-time drivers, equipment associates, and field technicians is an appropriate unit. I also conclude that the multi-facility unit sought in the petition is not appropriate. Instead, I am directing elections in two bargaining units. Specifically: (1) employees employed at the Employer's Frederick, Maryland location, and (2) a multi-facility unit consisting of employees employed at the Employer's Annapolis, Baltimore City, and Joppa, Maryland locations.


A. The Employer's Operational Structure.

The Employer is an equipment-rental company with an international reach. It rents, and also sells, myriad types of construction equipment and tools for construction companies, industrial and commercial facilities, and homeowners. Each of the Employer's facilities makes sales, delivers equipment to customers, and maintains the equipment both in the field and in its inventory. These facilities are classified as either "General Rentals" facilities that offer a wide range of equipment or "Specialty Sales" locations that focus on a particular type of equipment, such as HVAC equipment or trenching-and-shoring equipment.

The Employer organizes its facilities by regions, districts, and branches. All of the facilities in question are part of the Employer's Delaware-Baltimore District, which operates under the supervision of District Manager Michael Roberts. In addition to the four facilities listed in the petition, the Delaware-Baltimore District includes the Employer's facilities in Glen Burnie, Maryland; New Castle, Delaware; and Delmar, Delaware. All of the facilities relevant to this matter are General Rentals facilities.

The Petitioner currently represents the drivers and field technicians at the Glen Burnie facility. Additionally, employees at the New Castle facility are unionized, though the details are not specified in the record.

The Delaware-Baltimore District does not include all Employer facilities within or at least close to its approximate boundaries. A number of excluded facilities are closer to the Delaware-Baltimore District facilities than some of the included facilities. Some of these nearby facilities are Specialty Sales locations, such as the Employer's Halethorpe, Maryland location. Others are General Rentals locations that are part of another district, such as the DC Metro District. For example, the Frederick Branch is geographically closer to the Employer's Gaithersburg, Maryland facility than it is to any of the other facilities included in the Delaware- Baltimore District, but the Gaithersburg location is part of the DC Metro District.

The Employer's organizational model places considerable emphasis on the branch level. A branch frequently consists of a single facility, but it can include multiple facilities. Each branch is held accountable to the Employer by maintaining a comprehensive profit-and-loss (P&L) statement, including revenues, labor costs, equipment costs, and non-labor operating costs such as fuel and insurance. Although the Employer frequently shifts equipment from location to location, each branch assumes the costs of whatever equipment is under its control at any given time. The Employer utilizes the P&L statement to differentiate between profitable facilities and those that merit closure.

The branch manager is responsible for making hiring and disciplinary decisions, the latter in conjunction with an employee's direct supervisor. District Manager Roberts participates to some degree with respect to more severe levels of discipline. The branch manager also determines how much overtime should be approved. These decisions are reflected in the P&L statement, for which the branch manager is held accountable.

The petitioned-for unit encompasses two branches. The Frederick location is a single- facility branch under the supervision of Branch Manager Chris Dugan. The Baltimore Metro Branch is comprised of the Baltimore City, Joppa, and Annapolis facilities. Rich Young is the Branch Manager for all facilities in the Baltimore Metro Branch. Even in multi-facility branches, employees are assigned to an individual facility, which is designated by a three-digit number. This number appears on employees' paychecks.

The Employer has a centralized human resources department. It employs a regional HR manager to handle human resources matters for the relevant area. Benefits for non-union employees are uniform nationally.

B. The Job Classifications at Issue.

Drivers transport equipment to customers and between the Employer's facilities. A commercial driver's license (CDL), (either a CDL A or a CDL B), is a necessary qualification for the driver position. There are two drivers assigned to the Annapolis location, eight at Baltimore, two at Joppa, and four at Frederick. At the Frederick Branch, drivers in the CDL A sub-classification earn approximately $22-25 per hour.3

Drivers report to work at their assigned facility each morning, and they are not authorized to bring their trucks home in the evening. Because they are away from their facility much of the day, they determine when to take their lunch break based on the demands of their assignments for the day. Drivers usually, but not always, record their hours on a biometric time clock at their assigned facility, but they call in to record their lunch break.

Drivers are not limited to returning equipment to their own facility, branch, or even district, and consequently can range quite far from their assigned facility. A driver from the assigned to the Baltimore location recalls transporting equipment as far as Philadelphia. That driver and a driver from the Joppa location testified they have traveled to several locations in Virginia as well as the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.

Drivers assigned to the Baltimore Metro Branch are supervised by Logistics Manger Susan Zill, who reports to Branch Manager Young.4 Drivers at the Frederick Branch are supervised by Branch Manager Dugan.

Field technicians, or field techs, travel to customers' sites or facilities to repair and maintain equipment that was rented or purchased from the Employer. Employees in this position must have a level of skill equivalent to the more-skilled classifications of technicians who work solely at the Employer's facilities, the shop technicians. The record does not specify Field Tech wages, but shop technicians at a similar skill level earn up to about $30 per hour. Three field techs are assigned to the Baltimore facility, one to the Joppa facility, one to the Annapolis facility, and four to the Frederick Branch.5

Field technicians use their own tools to repair the Employer's equipment. The Employer furnishes field techs with a company truck. The field techs do not report to the facility each day, instead reporting directly to their assigned site as indicated on their Employer-provided handheld device. They always call in to report when they start and end the work day, rather than using the biometric time clock. Like drivers, field technicians determine when to take their own lunch breaks based on how their assignments take shape on any given day.

Sometimes field technicians receive long-term assignments to work on equipment at a particular customer site. Examples of these long-term assignments include at least two Baltimore Metro technicians who have worked at particular sites for over a year. Field technicians also work regularly at particular sites for extended periods that are shorter or more intermittent, including reporting regularly to a particular customer for the morning and then being dispatched away to other sites in the afternoon.

Field technicians assigned to the Baltimore Metro Branch are supervised by Service Manager Larry Catron.6 Field technicians at the Frederick Branch report to Service Manager Jesse Starr, who reports to Frederick Branch Manager Dugan.

Equipment associates perform manual labor tasks at the Employer's facilities in support of the work performed by the other job classifications. As District Manager Roberts put it, equipment associate is a "catchall" classification. The position does not require any particular certifications. However, these employees must be proficient in winch operations to carry out loading and unloading of equipment, and they have to be able to operate the Employer's equipment to some extent.

Equipment associates process returned equipment and prepare it to be rented once again, including by fueling the equipment, inspecting it for damage, and recording the equipment's mileage in an Employer-provided handheld device. They assist drivers, outside haulers, and customers in loading and unloading equipment. Part of this work includes loading equipment at the end of the shift so that drivers can embark immediately the following morning. They also demonstrate equipment for customers and "familiarize" the customers with it.

Equipment associates report to their assigned facility each day and do not work out in the field. They have a fixed lunch break. Shifts for equipment associates generally start at least an hour later than drivers. At the Frederick Branch, equipment associates earn about $20-22 per hour. Two equipment associates work at the Baltimore facility, one at the Joppa facility, none at the Annapolis facility, and one at the Frederick Branch. At Frederick, the single equipment associate, like the field technicians, is supervised by Service Manager Starr. Within the Baltimore Metro, they do not share common supervision. The Baltimore facility equipment associates are supervised by Service Manager Brian Hook, and the Joppa equipment associate is supervised by Shane McClafferty.7

The Employer employs additional job classifications at the facilities in question. These include dispatchers, parts associates, service writers, inside sales representatives, outside sales representatives, and shop technicians. Shop Technicians are the classification most germane to the unit dispute here, though there is little evidence in the record about them. The shop technicians work exclusively at their assigned facilities repairing and maintaining the Employer's equipment. Shop technicians are promoted through steps labeled I-IV.8

C. Relationship Between Locations and Classifications.

The Employer uses on-call lists to rotate who will be assigned work on the weekend. All drivers for the Baltimore Metro and the Glen Burnie Branches rotate through a single on-call list. Frederick drivers are not on any on-call list. A similar on-call list applies to all field technicians at the Baltimore Metro and the Glen Burnie Branches. Field technicians at the Frederick Branch have their own on-call list.

Although the Frederick drivers are separately supervised, since April 2017, they have been included in the Baltimore dispatch hub along with the Baltimore Metro and Glen Burnie drivers. All drivers receive their assignments through a handheld electronic device provided by the Employer. Two dispatchers working at the Glen Burnie Branch determine these assignments for all drivers in the Baltimore dispatch hub. There is a separate Baltimore dispatch hub for field technicians, but only Baltimore Metro and Glen Burnie technicians are dispatched through this hub. The Frederick field technicians are dispatched from the Frederick Branch.

Consistent with the Employer's branch-level emphasis, it does not temporarily transfer employees to other branches or facilities to compensate for absences. However, District Manager Roberts explained that the multi-facility dispatch hubs adjust for such absences in how

assignments are allocated among employees of the facilities comprising the hub.

One Baltimore Metro driver testified about seeing his counterparts from Frederick at the Baltimore Metro "a lot more recently since they basically joined the Hub." This driver explained that he travels to Frederick less frequently than he does to locations in the Baltimore Metro or Glen Burnie, but he nonetheless goes to Frederick roughly several times a week. This is greater than the handful of times per month that he transports equipment to or from other facilities outside of the Baltimore area, such as New Castle, Delaware or Gaithersburg or Bladensburg, Maryland.

Another Baltimore Metro driver testified that he drives to facilities in the Baltimore Metro or to Glen Burnie about 90 or 95% of the time. He described trips to Frederick as varying in frequency, from none for several weeks at a time to every day. Likewise, a former equipment associate at the Baltimore location estimated that about 85-90% of the drivers dropping off equipment at the facility were from the four Baltimore-area facilities.

The perspective from the Frederick branch is somewhat different. While Branch Manager Dugan testified to seeing drivers from the Baltimore Dispatch Hub at his facility frequently, if not daily, he stated that he witnesses drivers from the Gaithersburg location just 18 miles away "every day."

Drivers from different locations become acquainted with each other during stops at the Employer's facilities. They discuss how their assignments have been and sometimes commiserate about difficult aspects of the job, such as negotiating traffic in Baltimore. Two Baltimore drivers testified to knowing every driver on the on-call list for the Baltimore Metro and Glen Burnie Branches, and could identify two or three drivers assigned to the Frederick Branch by first name only. They could not identify drivers from locations outside of Frederick or the Baltimore Metro except that one Baltimore driver said he knew one driver from New Castle.

While at facility between assignments, drivers principally deal with equipment associates, who assist them in loading and unloading equipment. Otherwise, they have little interaction with other employees at a facility before departing once more. This has created some interaction with equipment associates outside of the Baltimore Metro Branch, as both the Baltimore drivers testified they are able to identify the equipment associate at the Frederick Branch by his first name.

The Employer assigns some equipment associates primarily to interact with customers, and others primarily to work with drivers in terms of loading and unloading equipment. The former Baltimore equipment associate explained his work focused primarily on drivers and he worked alongside equipment associates who were focused on customers.9 He testified that, while they interacted with different people to an extent, they generally performed similar duties and both worked around the loading and unloading zone.

Field technicians typically work individually in the field. However, they occasionally are paired with another field tech on more-involved jobs. For the Annapolis field technician, these situations always involved a field technician from another facility because he is the only field technician assigned to the Annapolis facility. For Baltimore Metro Field Techs generally, the other field technician usually is from one of the Baltimore Metro or Glen Burnie Branches, but a Baltimore field technician testified that he has recently worked alongside a Frederick field technician for two days.

When the field technicians have no repair assignment, they are expected to check a preventive maintenance list shared between Baltimore Metro and Glen Burnie field technicians to see what maintenance needs to be done. They use this list to perform maintenance and upkeep on the Employer's equipment that is out in the field. Frederick technicians, to the extent they perform preventive maintenance tasks, do not perform work from the shared Baltimore-Glen Burnie list. In the absence of other work assignments, field technicians are sometimes directed to return to their assigned facility to assist the shop technicians. However, it is undisputed "[i]t doesn't happen that frequently . . . ."

All employees attend monthly safety meetings, which are conducted at each facility. Field technicians are permitted to attend these meetings at a facility other than their own, although the extent to which this privilege is exercised is disputed. Baltimore Metro field technicians can order parts for repairs at facilities other than their designated facility, and they can also have their uniforms sent to a different facility.

Field techs for the Baltimore Metro and Glen Burnie Branches have a weekly meeting exclusive to their classification. By contrast, the Frederick field technicians attend a weekly meeting together with the Frederick shop technicians.

When they are out in the field, field technicians sometimes interact with drivers. The two classifications sometimes will collaborate when a driver needs assistance loading equipment that has malfunctioned. This tends to occur at larger sites with multiple pieces of Employer equipment, but less so at smaller sites. A Joppa driver testified that when he has questions about how to maneuver equipment that has broken down, he will call a Baltimore-based field technician.

The complete text of the order is available at (https://apps.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d45825722a5).

Neither the filing of a request for review nor the Board's granting a request for review will stay the election in this matter unless specifically ordered by the Board.

Dated: September 29, 2017


Charles L. Posner

Regional Director

National Labor Relations Board, Region 5

Bank of America Center, Tower II

100 South Charles Street, Suite 600

Baltimore, Maryland, 21201.

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