A labor watchdog’s objection to a union withdrawal procedure could hamper workers and union members from bringing future suits against employers’ labor organizations.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a petition to the Supreme Court on Monday asking justices to review an appeals court decision upholding United Food & Commercial Workers Local 876’s use of strict time windows for withdrawing membership. The case, however, extends far beyond the 17,000 workers in Local 876. A three-member panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, two of whom are on President Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court, questioned whether any party—employee, union, or employer—could bring such a case to federal civil court to begin with.
For decades parties to labor law have filed suit against unions and employers using Section 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act, which prohibits bribery on the parts of employers and unions. This aspect of the law has been used to bring suit against hundreds of unions and employers in federal court, including Local 876. The Sixth Circuit, however, questioned whether such suits should be allowed in the first place because the text of the law centers on criminal courts, rather than civil courts where labor law is settled.