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NLRB permits employers to eject non-employee union agents from their property

Reversing a 1999 decision, Sandusky Mall Co., the Board upheld an employer’s right to eject non-employee union agents from its premises, even though it had routinely granted other non-employees’ permission to solicit on the same premises for “civic, charitable and promotional activities.” In doing so the Board held that a union’s presence to solicit customers to join a boycott is entirely dissimilar from Girl Scout cookie sales, firefighter boot drives, Salvation Army drives, Lion’s Club activities, Red Cross blood drives and church activities. Employers may now comfortably permit such other activities without worry that they could be used by union activists to justify the union’s presence.

The Board’s ruling not only reinstated the exception permitting employers to treat civic, charitable and promotional activities” differently from unions but suggests the Board will now require an even higher showing for unions. The Board held that the new burden of proof will require the union (and NLRB General Counsel) to prove that the employer allowed “comparable organizational activities.” The Board did not give examples of what might be considered “comparable organizational activities.”

Source: Kroger Limited Partnership I Mid-Atlantic, 368 NLRB No. 64 (2019).

NLRB reverses 38-year old precedent regarding property access rights of union organizers

Reversing its 1981 president, Montgomery Ward, the NL RB recently held that non-employee union representatives can be banned from public spaces within an employer’s property, such as cafeterias, if they engage in organizing activities in those areas. The decision signals an equally pro-employer approach will be adopted with regard to the Board’s 2014 decision, Purple Communications, which held employees can, under some conditions, use company email for organizing.

This new property-access decision is likely to be challenging on at least two fronts.

First, it may be difficult to apply. The majority admitted in this new decision that union representatives could still enter such spaces, so long as they do not engage in union organizing activities. In other words, it may be difficult for an employer to expel union representatives who are simply having lunch with employees in the public cafeteria, so long as they are not visibly engaged in organizing activities by, for example, handing out flyers or buttons.

Second, the decision is likely to be relatively short-lived. It will no doubt be reversed, and Montgomery Ward, reinstated, by the next Board appointed by a Democrat president.

Source: UPMC, case no. 06-CA-102465 (6/14/19).