NLRA Preempts California Wrongful Termination Claim

Richard Luke was suspended for alleged dishonesty regarding his whereabouts. He then sent an email to his employer's parent's management entitled "trouble brewing." He was promptly fired the next day for circulating an anti-management petition and for ignoring the "chain of command." He testified at his deposition that he and other employees discussed working conditions such as being passed over for promotion, and physical conditions at the wine-label manufacturing plant at which he worked. He thought that was why he was fired. He said discharging him for that reason violated the public policy expressed in Labor Code section 232.5 (no adverse action against employee who "discloses" working conditions.).
In Luke v. Collotype Labels USA, Inc., opinion here, the court of appeal found that section 232.5 is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. Essentially, Luke's working with other employees to complain about promotions and plant conditions was a "concerted activity" that were "arguably" protected by the NLRA. As such they fall within the "Garmon" preemption doctrine.
Although the court in Luke did not even cite the court of appeal's decision in Grant-Burton v. Covenant Care, 99 Cal.App.4th 1361 (2002), opinion here, this decision contradicts Covenant Care's holding that a common law wrongful termination claim based on section 232 (prohibiting discharge for discussing wages) was viable. The court in Covenant Care addressed the NLRA, but noted the parties had not raised Garmon preemption on appeal, and left that issue for remand. (That sound you hear is me, smacking my forehead really hard.) With all due respect to the court of appeal in Covenant Care, that case was incorrectly decided, as shown by the decision at blog.