Over the next few months, the Supreme Court will hear two major cases that could prove a major setback to unions' ability to organize and collect dues -- and the conservative majority on the court is making pro-labor advocates nervous.
In UNITE HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall, the court will decide whether agreements between unions and employers that set the ground rules for union organizing violate the anti-corruption provision of the Labor Management Relations Act. That may sound pretty specific, but it could have far-reaching effects, leading labor expert and Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs to write that this “could be the most significant labor law case in a generation.”
In this particular case, the union, Unite Here Local 355, struck an agreement with Mardi Gras, a Florida casino company, under which the casino would not interfere in the union’s organizing drive, and in return, the union promised not to strike during that organizing period. That kind of agreement is standard practice across the country.
The challenge to this routine agreement alleges that the casino’s concessions to the union, which included a promise to remain neutral during the organizing campaign, violates an anti-corruption statute that was intended to keep employers from bribing unions by specifically prohibiting companies from giving union officials “things of value.” Until very recently, no one considered that these organizing agreements would constitute...