Join us for a special listening session of this week’s Supreme Court case Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, with comments and explanation from Ashwini Sukthankar, Deputy Director of International Affairs for the union ‘Unite Here’.
On Wednesday, November 13, the Supreme Court heard argument in the case of Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, the latest and most important case involving labor unions and the right to organize seen in recent years. The issue at hand in Mulhall is the neutrality agreement, a contract used by private employers and unions to establish ground rules for unionization campaigns, and govern conduct of workers. Neutrality agreements have become one of the most effective and common practices in contemporary union organizing. Companies have challenged the use of neutrality agreements, by which they agree to remain neutral during an organizing campaign in exchange for a union agreement not to picket, boycott or strike.
The Mardi Gras Casino and Resort is a multimillion dollar establishment which is responsible for 2,600 jobs. Over a decade ago, Mardi Gras employees began work with Local 355 of Unite Here, a union that campaigns for better wages and conditions for hotel, casino, and airport workers. In 2004, Local 355 and the casino signed a neutrality agreement which promised to give the union access to employees in exchange for Mardi Gras to discontinue their anti-union campaign. In 2008, Mardi Gras refused to comply with the neutrality agreement, claiming that the contract it signed was unlawful under an anti-corruption statute. According to Mulhall and Mardi Gras, the neutrality agreement disregarded federal criminal law, which prohibits employers and unions from trading money or things of value. Additionally, Mulhall and Mardi Gras argued the neutrality agreement circumvents employees’ right to secret-ballot elections determined in the National Labor Relations Act. Local 355 argued that the law is meant to protect against bribery and corruption, not “mutually beneficial agreements” made between employers and unions.
‘Key Union Strategy Goes Before Supreme Court’, Al Jazeera (Nov. 12, 2013)