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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8916
    JPY
    USD
    109.40
    GBP
    USD
    0.6905
    CAD
    USD
    1.3147
    INR
    USD
    67.522

    Rates may not be current.