(Click here to download the April 2014 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)
Law Bars Company From Handing ‘Things of Value’ to Union Bosses
For more than half a century, Sec.302 of the federal Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) has strictly forbidden employers from delivering “any money or other thing of value” to union officials who wield or seek to wield monopoly-bargaining power over the firm’s employees.
Congress included Sec.302 in the LMRA largely to forestall conflicts of interest in labor relations.
Under federally imposed union monopoly bargaining, employees are forced, whether they are union members or not, to allow the officers of a particular union to speak to their employer in their stead on matters concerning pay, benefits, and other terms of employment.
Lax Federal Enforcement Has Abetted Big Labor Conflicts of Interest
In Sec.302, Congress sought to mitigate the potential damage done by union monopolies.
The provision is designed to prevent union officials from holding interests or entering into transactions in which, as a 1959 Senate report on then-pending LMRA amendments explained, “self-interest may conflict with complete loyalty to those whom they [purport to] serve.”
Unfortunately, in recent decades federal law enforcement has routinely looked the other way when employers handed to union bosses “things of value” such as access to the company’s private property for organizing purposes and control over communications to employees regarding unionization.
In exchange for such organizing assistance from employers, union officials have sometimes secretly agreed in advance to make concessions on employee pay raises and benefits after they obtained monopoly-bargaining power.
But now five independent-minded Volkswagen employees who work at VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., are seeking, with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s assistance, to use Sec.302 to stop illegal union-boss efforts to deny them free choice.
In February, as the Right to Work Newsletter previously reported, employees at VW’s Chattanooga facility voted against unionization, even though the company had during the campaign given union organizers the run of the plant while denying similar access to employees opposed to unionization.
Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, UAW union kingpins are now demanding that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturn the February 14 vote and order a new election.
Independent-minded workers hope that the NLRB will reject the novel legal theory UAW lawyers have concocted as a rationale for throwing out the election and ordering a new one.
Workers Ask Court to Stop VW From Furnishing Further Assistance to UAW Chiefs
However, most labor-policy observers believe the NLRB, whose five members are all appointees of union-label President Barack Obama, is likely to accept UAW bosses’ strange theory that unsolicited statements by elected officials who have no control over employees’ jobs may improperly influence a unionization election.
In that event, the lawsuit filed on behalf of five Chattanooga employees by the Right to Work Foundation’s William Messenger and Tennessee attorney William Horton asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to enjoin VW from delivering any additional “things of value” to UAW bosses.
Mark Mix, president of the Foundation and of its sister organization, the National Right to Work Committee, commented: “The illegal collusion between UAW union bosses and VW management has gone on for too long already. That’s why Tennessee workers are invoking federal labor law to put a stop to it.”
Case Builds on Foundation-Won Precedent, Mulhall v. Unite Here Local 355
Mr. Mix added that the illegal VW assistance to UAW organizers up to now has included not just wide-ranging access to company property but also an array of other gratuities, including a gag order barring supervisors from talking to front-line employees about the possible downsides of unionization.
“The Chattanooga employees present a compelling case,” he said, “that VW managers have, for reasons of their own, already broken the law to ensure a UAW victory at the assembly plant.
“Moreover, just two years ago the 11th Circuit U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled in Mulhall v. Unite Here Local 355 (a case prepared, argued and won by Foundation attorneys) that non-cash organizing assistance of the sort VW has granted UAW bosses up to now may indeed be a ‘thing of value’ prohibited by the LMRA.
“Unless UAW union bigwigs and their cohorts in VW management back off now, a second federal circuit may soon issue a decision confirming that one of Big Labor’s favorite tactics is illegal.”