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Always Remembers ‘That It’s Important Who You Vote For:’ Trump’s NLRB ‘Just Quietly Ruled’ To Make Union Pickets ‘Illegal’

Published Wednesday, October 30, 2019
by Moshe Z. Marvit/In These Times Via TruthOut
Always Remembers ‘That It’s Important Who You Vote For:’ Trump’s NLRB ‘Just Quietly Ruled’ To Make Union Pickets ‘Illegal’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - An all-Republican panel of Republican President Donald Trump’s National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) recently ruled that Janitors in San Francisco violated the law when they picketed in front of their workplace to win higher wages, better working conditions and freedom from sexual harassment in their workplace.

The ruling could result in far-reaching restrictions on picketing that limit the ability of Labor Unions to put public pressure on management.

The NLRB reached its conclusion by using the complex and convoluted employment structure created by the Janitors’ employers.

The Janitors were technically employed by one company, Ortiz Janitorial Services, which was subcontracted by another company, Preferred Building Services, to work in the building of a third company.

This type of confusing employment relationship is increasingly common, resulting in Workers being put in a position where it’s difficult to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions, or protect their basic Employment Rights.

The NLRB based its decision on a particularly onerous provision in Federal Labor Law that prohibits Employees from engaging in boycotts, pickets or other activities that are aimed at a secondary employer.

The provision was added as part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, taking away one of Labor’s most powerful weapons.

In this case, the NLRB overturned an Administrative Law Judge’s ruling that because the second company had significant control over the employment relationship, it constituted a joint employer.

The judge based her conclusion on evidence that Preferred Building Services was involved in the hiring, firing, disciplining, supervision, direction of work, and other terms and conditions of the Janitors’ employment with Ortiz Janitorial Services.

Therefore, both Ortiz and Preferred acted as joint employers to the Janitors.

This matters because if the various companies were joint employers, there were no prohibited secondary activities, but the NLRB held the Janitors worked for the subcontractor, and any actions aimed at any other company was illegal under the law.

What is remarkable about this case is how it makes things much worse for Workers by only subtly reinterpreting the law.

It takes a narrow read on the Joint Employment Doctrine and thereby limits Workers’ right to picket.

And, as a result, many Workers in what former U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil has termed “the fissured workplace” will find it difficult to vindicate their rights.

Ultimately, this case shows how many basic fundamental rights associated with the First Amendment Workers are prohibited from engaging in.

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