Exxon Mobil Corp. violated federal law by stopping contributions to retirement accounts without the consent of the United Steelworkers union and refusing to bargain with the union, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled.
"Employers have a duty to bargain in good faith with union representatives about mandatory subjects of bargaining, specifically, wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment," NLRB Administrative Law Judge Christal Key wrote in the ruling, released Monday.
Two affiliates of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union— one in Baytown, Texas, and one in Baton Rouge, La. — alleged the company halted 401(k) contributions from October 2020 to October 2021 without the union's consent. The affiliates represent about 900 employees and 875 employees, respectively.
Exxon Mobil offers its employees a 401(k) plan, the U.S. ExxonMobil Savings Plan, which gives employees a 7% match if they contribute 6% of their salary to the plan. If employees contribute less than 6%, the company contributes a pro-rata amount of 7%. The company first sent notice in August 2020 that they would be suspending plan contributions. The union made several attempts to bargain the change and even met with Exxon Mobil representatives several times, but the two parties never reached an agreement, the ruling states.
Ms. Key said that Exxon engaged in "bad-faith bargaining," calling their only counterproposal a "sham proposal." She pushed back against Exxon's argument that their union contract allowed them to act unilaterally, determining the contract did not meet the standard for waiving a union's right to bargain.
Ms. Key also ruled that Exxon Mobil must pay back union employees all of their lost income, including the contributions they would have received as well as any investment growth the contributions would have experienced.
"We disagree with the ruling and intend to appeal," Exxon Mobil spokesperson Todd Spitler said in an email.
The U.S. ExxonMobil Savings Plan had $20.1 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2021, according to its most recent Form 5500.