Employers Can Provide Union Information

By Aram Kalousdian | September 28, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision to allow employees in California to be informed by their employers about union organizing efforts. In the case U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, the court decided 7-2 to strike down a California law that prohibited the use of state money by employers to educate their employees about unions in the workplace. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) led a coalition of business groups that filed a "friend of the court" brief, including the ABC of California chapter, in opposition to the California law.

"Today's ruling clearly signals that employers have an equal opportunity to educate their employees on the impact of joining a labor union," said ABC President and Chief Executive Officer Kirk Pickerel. "In addition, it sets important limits on the ability of unions to manipulate state governments into interfering with the rights of private employers and their employees."

In the ruling, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and found that the California law violated the "free speech" provision of Section 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act. Further, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that Congress "intended to encourage free debate on issues dividing labor and management" and that states are preempted from interfering with employers' protected rights to speak to their own employees on the subject of unionization.

The California law imposed accounting procedures and penalties on employers who spoke out in opposition to unionization of their employees. The law also allowed unions to sue such employers to enforce the law's forced neutrality provisions.

Those interested can read the decision at: https://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/06-939.pdf.

ABC is a national association representing nearly 25,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms in 78 chapters across the United States. For more information, visit www.abc.org.

Union Presidents Provide Insights

The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) held a town hall forum to kick off its premiere annual event — The 2008 Leadership Conference — providing provocative insights from five international union presidents on industry-related topics.

Moderated by Mark Breslin, executive director of Breslin Strategies Inc., the 90-minute forum entitled "Can We TAUC?" focused on five categories: labor shortages, organizational structure, marketing of union construction, accountability, and customer service.

International presidents from Bricklayers International, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Ironworkers International, Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International, and Painters International fielded questions from a panel of two TAUC contractor representatives and an owner representative.

The conversational format elicited candid responses from the international presidents, especially concerning the need for the partnership between union contractors and labor groups.

"We need to make the change in the industry, because we are the best, but if we're going to profess that we are the best, we have to ensure we're providing the contractors with the best that there is out there," said Painters International Union President James Williams. "The evaluations of the local councils are very, very important to determining where the problem is. We can't live without our contractors, and they can't live without us, and the earlier we figure that out the better we all are going to be."

Labor leaders are also grappling with the reality of replenishing huge numbers of craft workers who will be retiring in the years to come.

"Approximately 47 percent of our members are either eligible to retire today, or will be in the next 10 years, and that 47 percent comes out to roughly 40,000 members," Ironworkers International Union President Joe Hunt said. "So, for us to just maintain our present membership, we have a yeoman's task on our hands. And you can't grow market share if you can't supply trained Ironworkers, or trained Bricklayers, or whichever trade you are. You can't grow if you don't have the manpower to supply and grow with."

Since maintaining a drug-free workforce has taken on enormous significance in recent years, union contractors and labor organizations are working together to ensure a safer work site for everyone.

The 2008 Leadership Conference, which took place in Miami, FL, May 13–16, brought together the nation's union contractors, labor representatives, employer associations, and construction users to discuss the future of the union construction industry.

TAUC is an association of 2,500 union contractors from across the United States, primarily engaged in steel erection, industrial maintenance and construction. The mission of TAUC is to act as an advocate in advancing and enhancing the value of the union construction industry through an educated and action-driven membership that fosters the promotion of labor-management cooperation, workplace safety and health, and collaboration with construction users in order to help union contractors compete more effectively in the marketplace.