The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Trump NLRB asked to enforce rule stopping companies from aiding union ‘card check’ drives
President Barack Obama’s NLRB pushed through Big Labor-friendly rules promoting coercive “card check” union organizing drives
Washington, D.C. – After UNITE HERE Local 8 union officials unionized Gladys Bryant’s workplace via a “card check” drive, the Seattle housekeeper couldn’t help but feel that her rights had been violated.
Union bosses had significant help from Bryant’s employer, Embassy Suites, to organize the employees – even a list of workers’ names and contact information. And when Bryant had sought to revoke her card asking for the union’s representation, a union organizer lied to her and her coworkers about the process, blocking Bryant from exercising her rights.
After the tainted “card check” drive resulted in UNITE HERE Local 8’s monopoly bargaining power over her and her colleagues, Bryant decided to challenge the union bosses and her employer over their coercive tactics.
She filed charges with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director dismissed her charges, but a Foundation staff attorney has filed an appeal with the NLRB General Counsel.
Bryant had been working at Embassy Suites in Seattle for a month before the company informed her and her colleagues that UNITE HERE Local 8 union officials would be organizing the workplace.
Union officials began conducting a “card check” drive, a coercive tactic that bypasses a secret ballot election. Embassy Suites actively promoted the drive, giving union organizers special access to the hotel to meet and solicit employees. The hotel even provided union bosses with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union officials in collecting authorization cards from employees.
Although Bryant did at first sign a union authorization card, she and many of her colleagues reconsidered. When Bryant asked a union official how to revoke her card, the union official misled her and other employees that they had to appear in person at the union hall to revoke any previously signed cards.
Bryant made an appointment with the union official in an attempt to comply with the unlawful requirement. However, the union official did not show up. As a result, Bryant and her colleagues were unable to revoke their union authorization cards, which were then counted as “votes” toward unionization.
After Embassy Suites recognized UNITE HERE Local 8’s monopoly bargaining “representation” over employees, Bryant sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to file charges, arguing that the unionization violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Bryant’s charges allege 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 more than “ministerial aid,” such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources – as Embassy Suites gave union officials.
Foundation staff attorneys argue that the same “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers.
The Foundation staff attorney representing Bryant asks that the General Counsel issue a complaint on Bryant’s allegations to provide the Board with an opportunity to bring consistency to its “ministerial aid” standard
Bryant’s charges also argue that UNITE HERE violated the NLRA and fatally tainted its proof of employee support by misinforming employees that they could only revoke authorization cards by going in person to the union hall, blocking workers from exercising their rights. NLRB doctrine holds that, to revoke an authorization card, an employee must simply sign a document stating he or she does not support union representation.
Bryant and her coworkers had collected enough signatures for a decertification vote to remove the union. However, in a separate case covered in the January/February 2019 Foundation Action, the NLRB blocked their petition based on the “card check” recognition.
The block was due to Lamons Gasket, a 2011 Obama Board ruling barring decertification for one year after unionization via “card check.” Some Board members have noted in other recent cases that they would be willing to revisit the blocking charge policy in the future. “
“This case proves that not only are union bosses willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ their coercion often goes unchecked because of double standards in how the NLRB interprets the law,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Ray LaJeunesse. “What qualifies as ‘ministerial assistance and support’ under 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 rights to remove an unwanted union. This case offers the Trump NLRB a chance to stand up for worker freedom and end a double standard that tips the scales in favor of forced unionism.”