Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

SCOTUS to Ask, “What about the Employees?”

Next week, in a case entitled Unite-HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall, the Supreme Court will consider whether card-check “neutrality agreements” violate employee rights under the Labor-Management Relations Act (a.k.a. Taft-Hartley). These agreements, frequently forced on an employer by a union corporate campaign or potentially by a worker center campaign, require the employer not to speak on the potential outcomes of unionization and not to allow employees to have a secret ballot vote.

The question before the court is whether concessions by Mardi Gras Gaming (a casino) to Unite-HERE Local 355 qualify as “things of value” under the ActUnder Taft-Hartley, employers or their agents cannot “pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value […] to any labor organization, or any officer or employee thereof, which represents, seeks to represent, or would admit to membership, any of the employees of such employer.”

Mardi Gras Gaming agreed to recognize a card-check procedure, not to speak out on the issue of unionization, and to hand over a list of unionizable employees to the union. In return, the union agreed not to strike and to help pass a ballot measure allowing slot machine gambling. Employees who oppose unionization like Martin Mulhall, who filed suit to block the agreement, had no seat at the table.

The Cato Institute legal team argues that these perks absolutely are “things of value,” noting:

We argue that, not only are Mardi Gras’s concessions clearly “things of value,” they are the types of exchanges that the Taft-Hartley Act was specifically passed to prohibit. The union exchanged a promise of “peace” from strikes and boycotts for concessions from the casino that compromised Mr. Mulhall’s right to dissent from unionization. The “exchange” was little better than extortion.

We’ll see how the Supremes rule, but there is another option to restore the rights of employees like Mulhall who are edged out by Big Labor’s effectively extortionate behavior. The Employee Rights Act would require all unionization campaigns to be decided by a secret, private ballot election — a position supported by more than three-quarters of Americans, with equal support from union households. If SCOTUS fails to stand up for employees’ rights, Congress a clear path to do so.


Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsWorkers Center