Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Neutrality Agreements

Ironically, the employer broke the neutrality agreement that’s at issue in today's Supreme Court case testing whether such agreements are employer bribes. “Neutral” Mardi Gras Gaming fired 10 employees for their union activism—which led to a rally of hundreds and arrests of 26.

Ironically, the employer broke the neutrality agreement that’s at issue in today’s Supreme Court case testing whether such agreements are employer bribes. “Neutral” Mardi Gras Gaming fired 10 employees for their union activism—which led to a rally of hundreds and arrests of 26.

(Nov. 13) Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether “neutrality agreements,” where the employer promises not to fight the union, are really just a bribe, and therefore illegal.

As the legal system keeps choking organizing possibilities, it’s now a rare campaign in the private sector where the union doesn’t first extract a neutrality agreement to blunt the boss’s wrath.

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. Continue reading

SCOTUS and the Uncertain Future of Organized Labor

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

(June 27) This has been a blockbuster week for the Supreme Court to say the least. With DOMA, Proposition 8, Title VII, and affirmative action decisions dominating the coverage, few have taken note of the Supreme Court’s move on Monday to grant review to a set of cases that could strike a severe blow to private sector union organizing.

The first case, Noel Canning, challenges the ability of the President to make recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate has technically kept itself in session. Due to GOP obstruction in the Senate, the NLRB has for years struggled to maintain a three-member quorum. The Supreme Court held in New Process Steel that, absent such a quorum, the NLRB cannot legally rule on cases brought before it. If the Supreme Court decides that the President’s recess appointments to the NLRB are unlawful, the NLRB will become basically non-functional for as long as Senate Republicans continue to deny the NLRB a quorum by blocking new appointments to the agency. In a world with a non-functional NLRB, private sector unions will find themselves with nowhere to turn when employers illegally coerce, intimidate, and otherwise unlawfully obstruct organizing campaigns. Continue reading

A Good Day For Hotel Workers

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

UNITE HERE, the union of U.S. and Canadian hotel workers, and the Hyatt chain announced a wide-reaching agreement on Monday afternoon that will give Hyatt employees in currently non-union hotels across the nation the right to choose a union without having to face management opposition. In return, UNITE HERE announced it is lifting its global boycott of Hyatt hotels.

The agreement will go into effect when new union contracts for current members are ratified by UNITE HERE locals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Honolulu. The terms of those contracts were also agreed to in today’s settlement.

Over the past quarter-century, UNITE HERE has significantly raised living standards for its members in cities where most major hotels have union contracts. In New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas, hotel workers make more than $20-an-hour with employer-provided health benefit plans that have won national acclaim. The union is also known for its innovative contracts: In Las Vegas, the hotels fund and hire from a “Culinary Academy” that trains and certifies graduates for jobs ranging from fry cook to sommelier. In Los Angeles, since the 1990s, the hotels ensure that any employees deported by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement can regain their jobs if they return within two years.

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Supreme Court Scrutiny of ‘Neutrality’ Pacts Could Be Another Blow to Unions

by Bruce Vail

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will accept a case for review next year on the use of labor-management “neutrality” agreements in union organizing campaigns. An anti-union decision from the high court would make labor organizing more difficult and threaten labor organizations at a national level, labor experts say.

At issue are the so-called neutrality agreements between unions and employers in which the employer agrees beforehand not to actively oppose the union organizing process at a specific workplace. Typically, such agreements specify that both sides refrain from inflammatory or divisive tactics, and that the workers be allowed to choose or oppose union representation free from any pressure or intimidation from either side. Continue reading

Progressives Should Support The AT&T– T-Mobile Merger

by Nathan Newman

Why should progressives care about the proposed merger of AT&T with T-Mobile?   Because AT&T is the ONLY unionized wireless company in the country and the merger would ensure that 20,000+ T-Mobile workers would have the chance to join the 43,000 currently unionized AT&T Mobility employees with decent wages and legal protections on the job.

There are a range of other likely benefits from the merger, from a projected deployment of high-speed broadband to over 97% of the population and better service for existing AT&T and T-Mobile customers from more efficient integration of available spectrum from both companies.  But stepping away from the impact on consumers, which is being endlessly debated, progressives should be focusing as well on the massive gain for workers rights from the merger.

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Blowing a Whistle on Negative Campaigning

Although I am nobody’s referee, I know a foul when I see one. Some time ago I called one on national SEIU’s disruption of the Labor Notes Conference. Now I’ve detected another one in one piece of UHW’s negative campaign against Andy Stern.

The violation consists of what I consider an imbalanced criticism of an agreement between SEIU and UniteHere on the one hand and global service TNCs Sodexho and Compass on the other.

The UHW’s SEIUVoice site is carrying a front-page Wall Street Journal article of 10 May. The WSJ article “reveals” the existence of a three-year-old “secret pact” that allegedly raises substantial questions about union transparency and workers’ rights.
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Debates, Yes! Assaults, No!- The Labor Notes Conference

 As labor movement  activists who are members of the Democratic Socialists of America, we are deeply disturbed by the attempt of some Service Employees International Union staff members to forcibly disrupt the Labor Notes Conference dinner meeting in Dearborn, Mich. on April 12. 

We recognize that the demonstrators had every right to vigorously express their views on the  dispute between the SEIU and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses  Organizing Committee.  To the degree that this is a jurisdictional dispute, we do not take sides.  There are complex additional issues involved which will be addressed in future postings. However a dispute does not give anyone a license to physically disrupt meetings  of pro-labor organizations.  In fact this offensive behavior alienated the majority of conference participants, including many from SEIU itself.

As trade unionists we are vitally concerned with the ability of the labor movement to work together in fighting back against the global assaults by employers against unions and workers’ living standards. Working people need a revitalized labor movement at home and abroad, and rebuilding that movement requires that trade unionists and their allies are able to discuss and debate differences freely and openly, both within their individual unions and among their unions. Such debates will sometimes be sharp and heated, but must always be conducted without bullying, threats or intimidation.

This year’s Labor Notes Conference provided an important forum for over a thousand labor activists from 23 countries to discuss major topics of urgent concern to the U.S.  and international labor movements. Many conference participants from SEIU locals took a vigorous and active role in workshops that debated the very issues involved in the  conflict with the CNA/NNOC. Such opportunities are too rare in the labor movement, and the integrity of such an event should be respected.

Participation in democratic discussion and debate and leading by example are more effective and preferable to strong-arm tactics in winning new workers to the labor movement. We encourage both the SEIU and the CNA/NNOC to accept AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s recommendation to sit down and attempt to resolve their conflicts in a mutually acceptable way.

Duane Campbell, Stuart Elliot, Paul Garver, Michael Hirsch, Tim Sears 

 Note; we have spent some four days discussing this letter sentence by sentence on line. We each agree with the central message. Each of us may comment, amplify or amend specific wording in the letter.

Readers are invited to join in the discussion by responding to this posting.