NLRB General Counsel finds Embassy Suites’ ‘neutrality agreement’ with UNITE HERE violated workers’ rights by illegally assisting union organizing drive
Washington, D.C. (December 3, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Seattle housekeeper Gladys Bryant has won an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in her case challenging the use of a “neutrality agreement” between union officials and her employer to impose a union on the hotel’s workers. Her case challenges a legal double standard that allowed union officials to impose union representation in her workplace through a coercive “card check” drive while obtaining assistance from her employer.
Bryant filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “card check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s secret ballot election process. As part of the so-called “neutrality agreement,” Embassy Suites gave union organizers space in the hotel to meet and solicit employees. It also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.
After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), Bryant appealed the case to the NLRB General Counsel in January 2019. In response to the appeal, the General Counsel found that the union’s “card check” recognition was tainted because Embassy Suites through the “neutrality agreement” provided significant aid to the union officials’ organizing efforts in violation of the NLRA.
The NLRB General Counsel agreed with Bryant’s Foundation attorneys that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid.” The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers. Thus, the General Counsel’s ruling applies “ministerial aid” standard consistently, no matter whether the employer’s assistance is in favor of or opposed to unionization.
After the tainted card check drive, Bryant and her coworkers collected enough signatures for a secret-ballot decertification vote to remove the union. However, they were denied that vote when the NLRB blocked their petition based on the “card check” recognition. The block was due to Lamons Gasket, a 2011 Obama NLRB ruling barring decertification for up to one year after unionization via card check. The Board is now accepting comments as to whether it should end or modify that “voluntary recognition bar.”
“It is long past time that the National Labor Relations Board put an end to this double standard that allows union bosses to abuse workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Mark Mix. “The General Counsel is correct to finally recognize that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”
“As this case demonstrates, not only are union bosses willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ their coercion has gone unchecked for far too long because of double standards in how the NLRB interprets the law,” Mix added.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.