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Unite Here v. Mulhall: What It Means for Your Company's Unions

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on November 18, 2013 2:56 PM

Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one of the two union cases it is hearing this term. In Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, the Supreme Court must determine whether organizing assistance can be considered "a thing of value" for purposes of the Labor-Management Relations Act.

Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall

Unite Here, involves the legality of neutrality agreements -- agreements brokered between unions and companies. Typically, companies give unions employee information and agree not to oppose unionization, and in exchange, unions will promise not to strike, or criticize the company. In Unite Here, the union did just that, and Martin Mulhall sued to block the agreement between the union and employer.

Siding with Mulhall, the Eleventh Circuit found that the union and the company had violated the Labor Management Relations Act, because giving "organizing assistance can be a thing of value."

Oral Arguments

Last Wednesday, the Court heard oral arguments for Unite Here, but it's unclear which way the Court will go. On one end of the spectrum, Justice Sotomayor stated: "It does feel like a bribe to the employer," and when considering the company's acquiescence in the union's formation, Justice Alito asked "Why doesn't that constitute a thing of value?" reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription only).

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal notes that some Justices noted that even if the company's assistance was "a thing of value," it was not the kind that Congress was trying to prohibit.

Repercussions

The Court's opinion is expected in June, so we won't know the fate of neutrality agreements before then. We do know that whatever the outcome, the Unite Here case will be an important decision with wide ramifications because of the extensive use of neutrality agreements in union formation today.

Does your company have unionized labor? How does your company handle neutrality agreements? Let us know on LinkedIn.

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