Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do you know? “Salting” the wounds of labor organizing

2313836162_7444d0e9a1“Salting” is a common organizing tactic used by labor unions. It refers to union organizers applying for jobs with non-union employers. The organizers then attempt to organize the employer’s workforce from the inside. In addition to organizing, the salts also try to inflict economic harm on the targeted employer by triggering unfair labor practice charges and resulting back pay liability. Salting is one the more underhanded methods of organizing used by labor unions.

In Toering Electric Co. [PDF], the Bush-era NLRB attempting to limit the ability of unions to salt non-union workplaces. It ruled that an applicant for employment must be genuinely interested in seeking to establish an employment relationship with the employer in order to qualify as an "employee" under the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, and thus be protected against hiring discrimination based on union affiliation or activity.

Although they face an uphill battle, Congressional Republican are attempting to put another nail in salting coffin. The Truth in Employment Act of 2009 would amend the National Labor Relations Act so that an employer would not be under any obligation to “employ any person who seeks or has sought employment with the employer in furtherance of other employment or agency status.” The Congressional findings contained in the bill make it clear that this intent of this measure is to end salting once and for all:

The tactic of using professional union organizers and agents to infiltrate a targeted employer’s workplace, a practice commonly referred to as ‘salting’, has evolved into an aggressive form of harassment not contemplated when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted and threatens the balance of rights which is fundamental to the system of collective bargaining of the United States. Increasingly, union organizers are seeking employment with nonunion employers not because of a desire to work for such employers but primarily to organize the employees of such employers or to inflict economic harm specifically designed to put nonunion competitors out of business, or to do both. While no employer may discriminate against employees based upon the views of employees concerning collective bargaining, an employer should have the right to expect job applicants to be primarily interested in utilizing the skills of the applicants to further the goals of the business of the employer.

Given the party affiliation of both houses of Congress and the White House, the Truth in Employment Act will likely go nowhere. It’s introduction, though, is a good reminder to non-union employers that salting remains a legitimate threat, especially in today’s pro-union environment.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.