EDITORIAL: An unholy coalition

A labor-management collusion case goes to the Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court has an opportunity to return from the dark side during its next term. The court on Monday agreed to hear a union-organizing case that casts a fresh spotlight on campaigns to force workers into labor unions. The right result could restore freedom to the workplace.

Union-organizing efforts are usually portrayed as two-dimensional fights between union bosses and business bosses, with employees pushed around as if they were pawns in a chess game. It’s not always so. When the union wanted to organize at Mardi Gras Gaming, a casino, the company was willing to help the union.

The case, Mulhall v. Unite Here, is about company owners and managers who struck a secret deal to turn over employees’ personal contact information to union organizers. The managers promised to remain neutral during a “card check”-style union election that gave the union knowledge of how each employee voted. This is a tactic to intimidate employees into voting “yes” lest the union retaliate later. In return, the union promised not to boycott or picket the business and to make a $100,000 donation to a campaign to make slot machines legal in Miami.

The union was happy; it expanded its membership. The casino was happy to be rid of noisy protesters who were bad for business. The employees who didn’t want to share their paychecks with the union weren’t quite so pleased. One of the casino workers, Martin Mulhall, sought the assistance of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund to challenge the collusion of union and management in court.

Under federal law, employers can’t provide “any money or other thing of value” to a union looking to organize. The unions are specifically barred from seeking or accepting such benefits. Mr. Mulhall argued that his employer’s organizing assistance was a “thing of value,” as was the private contact information provided by the casino. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that “Mulhall alleged and a jury could find that Mardi Gras’s assistance had monetary value,” and it ordered a lower court to reconsider the case. The Unite Here union appealed. A final decision by the Supreme Court could establish a universal precedent.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, says the stakes couldn’t be higher, since the high court has the opportunity to “ensure that union organizers can’t cut backroom deals with management.” Such a result would not be a win for either the union or the company a win, but a big and important one for the employees.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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