Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, recently signed an executive order requiring “labor peace” agreements from retail and food service employers doing business on city development projects. These are projects that are broadly defined and include those receiving financial assistance from the City.
The executive order, is, simply put, a local government thumb on the scale in favor of labor unions.
If a union wants to attempt to unionize a particular employer, that is their right. The employees, however, should have the opportunity to hear both sides and the executive order eliminates the employers’ side. This means that only the message pushed by the union is allowed to be given to the employees. This is fundamentally unfair to the employees and is a significant restriction on employers’ rights as well.
Among the requirements in the executive order is one forcing employers to “agree to maintain a neutral posture with respect to efforts by the Labor Organization to represent Covered Employees.” Essentially the Mayor is forcing employers to enter into what is known as a “neutrality agreement” with a union. There is a signification question as to whether these agreements are prohibited under federal law because they constitute a “thing of value” that is given to the union. Employers are generally prohibited, with a few exceptions not relevant here, from giving anything of value to a union that seeks to organize their employees. By forcing neutrality agreements on employers the Mayor is putting them in potential legal jeopardy.
What if, as part of its demand for a neutrality agreement, the labor organization insists on a requirement that the employer agree to recognize the union as the representative of its employees using a “card-check” process, taking away the right of the employees to have a secret ballot election on whether they want a union? The executive order doesn’t explicitly deal with this, but these requirements are common in neutrality agreements. As the Order requires the employer to enter into an agreement with a labor union which seeks to organize its workforce, the union will have the leverage to get provisions such as this because the employer must enter into the agreement. This is because the employer is put into the position where they must agree to the union’s demands, or don’t do business.
Since this executive order is clearly intended to help unions organize employers a good question is whether the Mayor or his staff worked with any unions in formulating the Order. To get to the bottom of this we’ve filed a series of records requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. We suspect that the retail unions had a hand in getting the executive order signed.
Forcing employers to refrain from talking with their employees regarding important issues affecting them isn’t good for anyone. By analogy, this would be like saying that one political party in the current election season is prohibited from talking to voters about its positions. While this would be helpful for the other party, and might even be supported by them, it would be bad for our republic. Having voters who are less informed is not desirable. Rather, a full and robust discussion should be had and voters should have the opportunity to hear from all sides.
The Mayor is telling potential employers, if you want to do business here you must give up your First Amendment rights. One only has to wonder what other rights he would like to force employers and individuals to give up as well. This is a bad practice that should be scrapped immediately.
Another problem with the executive order is that it allows the Deputy Mayor to exempt some employers after “finding that a particular project contributes to the economic well-being of the City and cannot reasonable be achieved consistent with the requirements” of the Order. This is an open invitation for political favoritism. What could possibly go wrong there?
Overall, the executive order is a bad idea. Forcing employees to decide on a union having only heard from one side is like forcing one political party to not campaign. No reasonable person would think that fair or just and it isn’t here.