Eleventh Circuit rejects request of union, Obama administration

Michael P. Tremoglie May 8, 2012, 11:44am


ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - The full court of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has rejecsted a request for a rehearing of a three-judge panel's January ruling involving a quid pro quo between a company and a union.

The Obama administration had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the union. The initial case involved Martin Mulhall, an employee of Hollywood, Fla.-area Mardi Gras Gaming, who sued after Mardi Gras entered into an agreement with Unite Here Local 355 union officials with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation in 2008.

The company said it would furnish employees' personal contact information (including home addresses), grant union operatives access to company facilities for the purpose of organizing through a coercive card check campaign. It also promised to refrain from speaking disparagingly about unions.

The union, in return for Mardi Gras' assistance in organizing, would fund a campaign to support a gambling ballot initiative. It also pledged not to picket, boycott, or strike the facility.

There is a federal law that prevents unions from agreeing to undermine workers' rights in exchange for concessions from management explicitly prohibits employers from giving "any money or other thing of value" to unions.

Mulhall sued Unite Here Local 355 and Mardi Gras in 2008, arguing that the company's organizing assistance to the union is of substantial monetary value to the union.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the complaint. Mulhall appealed to the 11thCircuit. A three-judge panel for the Eleventh Circuit agreed with Mulhall and reversed the district court ruling.

Mardi Gras and Unite Here petitioned for an en banc hearing. The Obama administration's Justice and Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon filed an amicus brief supporting the union lawyers' position.

The full court rejected the petition - without a poll - for the en banc hearing. The court observed that not one of its regular active judges requested the poll on whether to grant the union lawyers' request for rehearing.

"Union bosses and the Obama Administration have failed to roll back a major, precedent-setting victory for workers," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal assistance for Mr. Mulhall.

"Today, the court reaffirmed that union organizing is indeed a thing of value to union bosses who want to sell out workers to pave the way for monopoly control over a workplace."

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