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Frank Myers v. NLRB

Every union should read and be alarmed, organizers now can be arrested

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 02, 2017

In a union workplace, most disagreements are usually settled when union representatives and management sit down and talk about the issue.  If talking the issue out doesn’t work, the union sometimes needs to escalate the action to show that they will not be pushed around. When this happened at a store outside of Portland, Oregon, three union organizers were arrested by management and an 8-year legal battle ensued.  On Tuesday, the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issues a sweeping ruling in the case that could have lasting implications for workplace actions moving forward.

The dispute arose in 2009 when an organizer from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) attempted to speak with members at the Fred Meyers grocery store. The ability to speak to members, as long as it doesn’t impact their work, and pass out literature is a collectively bargained right in their contract and has been for 20+ years. However, this time the Manager on Duty (MOD), after consulting with his regional manager, decided that he didn’t like the provision and attempted to stop the conversations, kicking the organizer out of the store in the process. The following day, 8 organizers along with a photographer came to the store and attempted to execute their collectively bargained right. Joining them was a local state representative as well. They requested that the MOD allow them to do their job and educate the employees on their rights as union members. Once again, the MOD attempted to prevent them from talking to the members while yelling out for those in the store to hear that the union was only there for dues, angrily instructed employees not to talk to their union reps, accused the union of stealing members money, and ordered the union reps to leave the store.  With the permission of the regional manager the MOD then proceeded to call the police who came and arrested 3 union organizers including the local’s President. Wow.

 After the arrests were made, the UFCW filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The NLRB found that the company and the MOD violated multiple federal labor laws saying that the visitation provision does not give management the ability to prevent the organizers from talking to their members and that the MOD angry tirade constituted a violation since it was intended to be anti-union. The company Fred Meyers Stores Inc, decided to appeal the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In their decision, the court overruled the NLRB saying that the union organizers went too far by arguing with the MOD and refusing to follow the police officers’ commands. They further stated that if an employer violates a CBA, the only recourse the official has to briefly protest the decision and then comply and then grieve the issue through the proper channel. They also said that the anti-union statements made by the MOD weren’t coercive enough to warrant a violation.

  • This decision creates a dangerous precedent. Under this decision, announcing to your entire workforce that the union that represents them is stealing their money, is outdated and that they do not need a union is ok.
     
  • It also allows employers to simply kick out organizers, in violation of their CBA’s, while taking away a union’s ability to fight back. 

The conservative court, which has a 10-8 Republican majority, has appointees going all the way back to Reagan and will only get more anti-worker under Trump. By overturning the NLRB’s decision, the court is telling bad employers that they have all the power in preventing the implementation of a CBA. While the union is forced to rely on lawyers to argue that the company needs to abide by the CBA, the employers have the sole ability to keep employees away from the union organizers and denigrate the union. Once again, the courts have cut off an important avenue for the union to fight for their members.

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