Vincent Vernuccio

Imagine someone goes to your boss and strikes a deal. The deal could be something your boss wants or it could simply be to not harm his business. All your boss has to do is agree to have you pay this person every month out of your paycheck. Technically you have a choice, but if you decline the person will know and so will your boss. Oh, and your boss already gave that person your home address. In the world of labor relations, this is known as a “neutrality agreement.”

It sounds like something out of a bad mafia movie, but that is what happened to Martin Mulhall and his colleagues at Mardi Gras Gaming in Florida. The “person” was actually the union, UNITE HERE.

In a typical neutrality agreement, a union generally requires a business to capitulate to three main demands:

  • A gag order to prevent the employer from talking to its employees about unionization and allowing the union access to the employer’s property;
  • Giving over employee personal data, including private contact information, to aid the union in recruitment;
  • And taking away the secret ballot from employees.
The last requirement is called a card check election and can lead to intimidation and coercion. All the union needs to organize the company and start getting paid is to get cards signed — in the open — and does not need to bother with an election. Unions prefer card check because it makes their job easier. It is a central part of neutrality agreements.

Despite conventional wisdom, there are three groups in collective bargaining. The first two, labor organizations and businesses, are generally the only ones mentioned. The third group is the workers themselves.

More and more, through collusion, such as supporting an employer’s political causes, and from union intimidation tactics called corporate campaigns, labor organizations and businesses are on the same side.

In many instances a union will target an employer and try to destroy its reputation by coordinated attacks on the business’s brand, and the employers themselves. The attacks can come as protests and boycotts by community organizations (in some instances union supported community organizations such as the union front groups called worker centers), elected officials bringing political pressure, and bureaucrats bringing regulatory pressure. All of this can end if only the employer will give in to the union.

In either situation — the employer getting a benefit from the union or ending a detriment — it is the workers who are left out in the cold.

Vincent Vernuccio

F. Vincent Vernuccio is Labor Policy Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.