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Supreme Court dismisses labor law case

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [order, PDF] a case dealing with labor law on the grounds that certiorari was improvidently granted. In Unite Here Local 355 v. Martin Mulhall [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court addressed the issue of whether an employer and union can violate §302 of Labor Management Relations Act [29 USC § 186, text] by entering into an agreement under which the employer exercises its freedom of speech by promising to remain neutral to union organizing, its property rights by granting union representatives limited access to the employer's property and employees and its freedom of contract by obtaining the union's promise to forgo its rights to picket, boycott or otherwise put pressure on the employer's business. Section 302 makes it a crime for an employer "to pay, lend, or deliver ... any money or other thing of value" to a labor union that seeks to represent its employees and prohibits the labor union from receiving the same. An employee had filed the case against the union, and the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held [opinion] that organizing assistance can be a thing of value possibly constituting a violation of §302. Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, filed a dissenting opinion, stating that the court had been faced with two antecedent questions that precluded it from determining the proper interpretation of §302. Breyer stated that the court should have requested briefs responding to these questions instead of dismissing the case.

This decision is the most recent dealing with United States labor law issues. In August the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled [JURIST report] that Michigan's right-to-work law [PA 349 text], which makes it illegal for employers to require employees to pay union dues, applies to civil service employees. The law has been viewed by its opponents as a legislative attack on organized labor. In June the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) [official website] overstepped its authority by issuing a rule that would have required employers to post notices informing workers of their rights under federal labor law. The NLRB initially issued the regulation [JURIST report] requiring employers to post their employees' rights under the NLRA in 2011. These rights include the right to unionize, to bargain collectively and to refuse pressures to do either.

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