The U.S. Supreme Court considered whether “neutrality agreements” between unions and employers violate federal labor law. Neutrality agreements are contracts between labor unions and employers under which the employers agree to support a union’s attempt to organize its workforce.
In Unite Here Local 355 v. Muhall, the Supreme Court will decide whether these agreements are a “thing of value.” This definition matters because under Labor Law the exchange of things of value between a labor union and an employer are a felony. Further, it is a crime for a union to request, demand, receive or accept or agree to receive or accept, any payment, loan, or delivery of any money or other thing of value prohibited by the statute.
Under the agreements, businesses help labor unions in organization efforts in exchange for labor peace, the New York Times reports. The Washington Post offers some examples: An employer might grant access to employee lists or agree to remain neutral in exchange for union concessions, such as giving up the right to strike.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was a “thing of value” because it includes tangibles and intangibles. In other words, while the employer and the union can agree on the ground rules, the assistance in this case would constitute payment.
The assistance the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals referred to was as follows. The casino (employer) agreed to allow union access to worker information and casino grounds, and to allow a unionization vote by cards collected from workers, rather than a secret ballot. The union agreed to refrain from picketing or striking during the union drive.
It is important to note that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to take into consideration whether there was monetary value.
What is mind boggling is the fact that neutrality agreements are not only common, but they help avoid conflict and encourages the practice and procedure of collective bargaining. The preamble of the National Labor Relations Act supports labor peace and the encouragement of the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.
The outcome of this contentious and heavily litigated case remains unknown. The Supreme Court, specifically Justice Roberts, focused on the card-check portion of the neutrality agreement. Justice Kagan focused on how the benefits bargained by the union benefit employees and unions.