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

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 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.