Can a labor union extort a business into prohibiting its employees from exercising their democratic right to a secret-ballot election? The Supreme Court will decide just that, after hearing the case UNITE-HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall on Wednesday.
The following op-ed was written by Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, and was published in Investor’s Business Daily on November 15, 2013. The online version may be found here.
Supreme Court Can End Unions’ Racketeering Racket
Can a labor union extort a business into prohibiting its employees from exercising their democratic right to a secret-ballot election?
The Supreme Court will decide just that, after hearing the case UNITE-HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall on Wednesday.
If the Court says “no,” as many expect, it will restore to employees the right to self-determination and workplace freedom that is rightfully theirs.
In doing so, the Court could fundamentally reshape the labor organizing landscape by putting employees’ interests at the forefront of labor law and ensure that labor leaders can no longer use an immoral trick to silence the people they claim to represent.
The issue before the Court first arose when the UNITE-HERE union (a major conglomeration of industrial, textile, hotel, and restaurant employees) initiated a unionization campaign at a Florida casino, Mardi Gras Gaming.
Rather than approach employees, however, the union went straight to management.
The union officials offered the company a deal it couldn’t refuse. Union leaders promised that their unionization drive would be painless and quick, with absolutely no strikes, pickets, or other anti-business economic activity.
They even threw in political support for a pro-gambling ballot initiative.
In return, all Mardi Gras had to do was sign a “gag clause,” stay “neutral” throughout the unionization process, and provide union officials personal information on the company’s employees.
They also had to agree to accept the results of a “card check” — a discredited union tactic to organize a company by bypassing a government-supervised secret-ballot election.
Mardi Gras management acceded to the union’s demands and signed a so-called “neutrality agreement.”
It was an easy choice to make: They could either embark on an antagonistic, expensive, and drawn-out anti-corporate campaign, or they could give the union what they wanted and thereby avoid the damaging public relations fights for which UNITE-HERE has become famous.
The process reeked of extortion from start to finish.
All that was missing from the pre-bargaining table were the employees whose futures were at stake. UNITE-HERE secured a carte blanche promise to unionize them, using an election process that favored the union’s desired outcome.
The only casualty was the employees’ democratic right to a secret-ballot election.
Now an employee is suing the union, demanding that his rights be restored to him. The Supreme Court has the chance to repudiate this practice.
Legally, the question comes down to whether some “neutrality agreements” violate the Labor Management Relations Act’s (LMRA) prohibition on unions and businesses giving each other material or political aid and assistance as a quid pro quo of a potential collective bargaining agreement.
Richard Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts.