Skip to main content

The Supreme Court as of 2010
Union organizing campaigns run up against the fact that labor law enforcement, wealth, and power in the workplace are all stacked against workers, and if bosses fight a union with everything at their disposal, it is damn hard for workers to win. That environment could get a lot worse, though, with the Supreme Court hearing a case this week that challenged the legality of a key organizing tool.

As Labor Notes' Jenny Brown explains:

Neutrality agreements create rules for union and employer behavior during organizing drives. Often an employer signs such an agreement only after years of targeted union pressure. The employer promises not to try to sway workers’ opinions, allowing them some breathing room when labor law is mostly on management’s side.
For their part, unions may offer the employer some promises—for instance, that they will avoid strikes. But in the case the Supreme Court heard this week, a federal appeals court ruled that neutrality agreements may violate a provision of the Taft-Hartley Act prohibiting employers from giving unions "anything of value." According to the appeals court, the fact that Mardi Gras gaming gave UNITE HERE access to its facilities and the names and addresses of employees could count as something of value.
The paragraph is designed to keep employers from bribing unions with money, jobs, loans, or other inducements, said Massachusetts labor lawyer Robert Schwartz.

“No employer would think to bribe a union by making it easier for the union to organize,” noted UNITE HERE in a press release.

The Supreme Court hearing a case that could seriously limit union organizing efforts is a terrifying prospect. There were some promising moments during questioning:
Justice Elena Kagan said that the argument from Mulhall's lawyer, William L. Messenger, could mean that employers would never be able to do simple things like invite union representatives on their property to talk to their employees without running afoul of the law.

"So this is to say that the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from providing access to their premises, from granting a union a list of employees, or from declaring itself neutral as to a union election?" Kagan said.

Messenger agreed, prompting a reaction from Justice Anthony Kennedy. "Do you acknowledge that your answer to Justice Kagan is contrary to years of settled practices and understandings?" Kennedy said.

But still. This is not a pro-worker Court, and it's going to be a nervous wait for the decision.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Applebee's workers argued in court that they should be allowed to be a class in a lawsuit against a franchise owner who routinely didn't pay workers the wages they were entitled to, across dozens of restaurants with the same owner.
  • Well, this is vile. As Gawker's Hamilton Nolan describes it:
    In this video, you can see that when a taxi driver with a foreign accent goes to the podium to address the Taxicab Commission, the Commission's chairman, Ron Linton, stops him and tells him that anyone wishing to address them must provide the commissioners with a written copy of their remarks, or else they're not allowed to speak. Another commissioner explains that the commission requires written testimony because "a lot of our cab drivers have difficulty with our language. It's very difficult for us to understand some of the people that testify." [...]

    And the kicker: at the end of the video, an American cab driver without an accent comes up to speak, and notes that he has no written testimony. The commissioners tell him to go ahead and speak, because "we do understand you."

    DC cab drivers have recently been organizing to join the Teamsters, and here you get a taste of what they're up against and why joining together to fight back is so necessary.
  • Boeing is threatening to move production of its newest jet after union workers rejected contract concessions. In fact, the company used the threat of moving production to try to get the workers to accept the concessions.
  • Maine representative and gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud recently made a small splash by coming out as gay; Bruce Vail reports on Michaud's working-class roots and longtime union support:
    Michaud has been a member of the United Paperworkers International Union since 1973, when he joined as a teenager, according to Michaud spokesperson Ed Gilman. Michaud began work alongside his father at the East Millinocket mill operated by the Great Northern Paper Co. and continued working there even after his election to the Maine House of Representatives in 1980 and to the state Senate in 1994. It was only after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 that he stopped regular work at the Great Northern mill, Gilman says. But he still maintains his membership in the union, which merged with the OCAW in 1999 and then became part of the United Steelworkers (USW) in 2005.
  • Really, Goodwill? Paying disabled workers less than a dollar an hour?
  • Hamilton Nolan takes Matt Yglesias behind the woodshed.
  • Want "Black Friday" deals at Walmart? Prepare to show up on Thanksgiving.

Education

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 16, 2013 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site