News / Economy

    US Supreme Court Weighs Employer-Union Organizing Deals

    FILE - Visitors to the Supreme Court are pictured in the rain in Washington.
    FILE - Visitors to the Supreme Court are pictured in the rain in Washington.
    Reuters
    The Supreme Court will hear a case on Wednesday that could have a major impact on the U.S. labor movement as it questions whether agreements often made between unions and private-sector employers over unionization campaigns violate an anti-corruption law.
     
    The court is examining deals known as “neutrality agreements” in which employers agree not to campaign against unionization. The agreements have been in use for decades and the case could change how unions go about organizing.
     
    If the justices find the pacts are a “thing of value,” prohibiting employers and unions from entering into them, it would be a major blow to organized labor as it struggles to bolster membership, said those familiar with the practice.
     
    “The stakes could not be higher for the union movement,” Harvard University Law School Professor Benjamin Sachs said.
     
    “Almost all of the successful unionizing efforts in the private sector in the last couple of decades have come through the type of private organizing agreements that are at issue in this case,” he said.
     
    The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, was brought by an employee of Mardi Gras Gaming, a casino and dog track in Hollywood, Florida.
     
    Martin Mulhall, the employee, said his employer violated the Labor Management Relations Act when it agreed to allow the union Unite Here onto its property to organize workers, and when the company agreed to give the union contact information for employees in exchange for the union's support on a ballot initiative.

    Things of value

    The labor relations statute bars employers from providing “thing of value” to unions and union officials. Mulhall argued that the access Mardi Gras Gaming gave Unite Here was valuable during the union's unionization drive.
     
    A federal trial court dismissed Mulhall's case. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals departed from precedent in two other circuits and reversed, saying that “it seems apparent that organizing assistance can be a thing of value.”
     
    If the Supreme Court agrees, employers and unions who enter into agreements with such terms could be committing felonies, legal experts told Reuters.
     
    Arthur Smith, a Chicago-based attorney at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart who represents employers, said that the agreements between unions and employers today are very different than those used in the 1980s.
     
    Smith said that in the beginning, neutrality agreements were very simple and stated an employer would remain neutral while a union attempted to organize a workforce.
     
    Today, he said, popular add-ons include allowing the union to access the workplace, providing it with contact information and recognizing its position as a bargaining representative if the majority of employees sign commitment cards.
     
    Secret ballot wins difficult
     
    Unions have used the press and public demonstrations to wage “corporate campaigns” to convince employers to agree to these provisions in an environment where union density in the private sector has declined and it is increasingly difficult to win secret-ballot elections, Smith said.
     
    Smith filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Mulhall on behalf of the Council on Labor Law Equality, a trade group that represents employers in labor disputes in federal courts.
     
    Craig Becker, the general counsel of the AFL-CIO, the country's largest federation of labor unions, said that in Mulhall one section of the labor relations statute is taken out of context. Congress intended to criminalize the exchange of money and straightforward bribery, Becker said.
     
    “This is about everyday accommodations between employers and unions that take place all the time,” Becker said. The AFL-CIO filed a brief supporting the position of Unite Here.
     
    Harvard's Sachs said the Supreme Court could decide that it should not have taken the case for procedural reasons, leaving for another day the issue of neutrality agreements.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9017
    JPY
    USD
    102.66
    GBP
    USD
    0.7443
    CAD
    USD
    1.2990
    INR
    USD
    67.600

    Rates may not be current.