Recently, the National Labor Relations Board decided that a union’s positioning of a giant inflatable rat near the entrance of a construction project at an acute care hospital where neutral employers worked (i.e., those with whom the union has no labor dispute) does not violate the National Labor Relations Act. Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Assoc., Local 15 (Brandon Reg’l Med. Ctr.), 356 NLRB No. 162 (May 26, 2011).
In what has become a common pattern with the Board, Chairman Liebman and Members Pearce and Becker were in the majority, and Member Hayes dissented.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits unions from inducing strikes or picketing against neutral employers (also called secondary employers) with whom the unions have no labor dispute, but it does not prevent unions from engaging in this activity against employers with whom the unions have the dispute (called primary employers). Where primary and neutral employers work side-by-side at a worksite (like a construction project), the Act prohibits unions from picketing the worksite since doing so embroils neutral employers in a labor dispute over which they have no control.
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