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Labor Law
St. Johns University School of Law
Fernbach, Karen P.

Labor Law Outline

Professor Fernbach

FALL 2016




Vegelahn v. Guntner (1896)

An employer sought a permanent injunction against picketing union workers who used peaceful persuasion and threats of violence against employees entering the premises.

The maintenance of a picket in front of an employer’s premises where the employees try to interfere with the right of an employer to hire whom it pleases, regardless of the picketers’ conduct, is unlawful and can be enjoined

Plant v. Woods (1900)

Involved a conflict between 2 unions representing workers in the same craft and one of the unions threatened strikes to their employer unless the other union members changed their affiliation to their union

Conspiracy to force the other union members to change affiliation was unlawful as it limited the freedom of both the employer and the employees and not justified by “trade competition”

Loewe v. Lawlor

Employer tried to enjoin union members from combining with other union members to compel employer to recognize the union by boycotting his interstate trade

The Sherman Act prohibits doing anything that would obstruct the free flow of interstate commerce and would restrict the liberty of an employer to engage in business

Thornhill v. Alabama

Picketer was convicted of violating a statute that prohibited loitering or picketing another’s business without just cause for the purpose of influencing people to not go into the business or employees from going to work

The dissemination of information concerning the facts of a labor dispute by individuals who peacefully and passively carried signs is within the area of free discussion guaranteed by the Constitution’s 1st Amendment


Established firmly the legally protected rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing
Covers both union and non-union employees
There is a federal right to strike even for non-union employees
Established NLRB (and ) with jurisdiction over unfair labor practices and questions of union representation and with the power to issue and prosecute complaints under
Goals of the Act:

Economic – better wages for workers
Promote industrial peace between management and workers
Leaves substantive terms of employment up to negotiation by union and management from representatives, not the government

Core of the Act =

Employees shall have the:

Right to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations
To bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing
To engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining (striking, picketing, etc.) or other mutual aid or protection


The NLRB (1) conducts elections; (2) investigates unfair labor practice (ULP) charges; (3) facilitates settlements; (4) decides cases; (5) enforces orders

Employers have to engage directly or indirectly in interstate commerce to an extent exceeding certain prescribed dollar minima in order to be subject to its jurisdiction
Generally, the Board’s jurisdiction is very broad and covers the great majority of non-government employer with a workplace in the US, including non-profits, employee-owned businesses, labor organizations, non-union businesses, and businesses in states with “Right to Work” laws
Excluded Employers:

Any employer who doesn’t engage in interstate commerce and who doesn’t meet the prescribed dollar minima

The term “employer” includes any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, but shall not include:

the United States or any wholly owned Government corporation
any Federal Reserve Bank,
any State or political subdivision thereof
any person subject to the Railway Labor Act, as amended from time to time
any labor organization (other than when acting as an employer)
anyone acting in the capacity of officer or agent of such labor organization



NLRB v. Catholic Bishop (1979)

The Catholic archdiocese refused to give its nonclerical teachers the right to unionize. It refused to bargain collectively with them regarding their wages, hours, and terms and conditions for employment.

Whether the NLRB has the authority to assert jurisdiction over labor practices in Catholic schools?

NLRB didn’t have jurisdiction to investigate the unfair labor practice charges. Congress didn’t contemplate that the NLRB would require Catholic schools to recognize unions as bargaining agents for their teachers.

Limited to lay teachers however other states are free to extend their collective bargaining laws to lay teachers

Pacific Lutheran University v. SEIU (2014)

SEIU tried to organize faculty at PLU and tried to get the NLRB to hold a representation election for the faculty. PLU challenged the petition and argued that because it was a religious institution, it was exempt from the NLRB’s jurisdiction under NLRB v. Catholic Bishop

Whether the NLRB had jurisdiction over representation elections in a religious university?

NLRB found that even though the university was a religious institution, the NLRB can assert jurisdiction bc the university failed to establish that the faculty who were seeking representation performed a religious role.

NLRB will not be able to assert jurisdiction on a religious school that holds out its faculty as performing a specific employment role in creating/mainta

Board in a way ER doesn’t like, for refusing to commit a ULP, etc.

Managerial Employees

A common law exclusion – no specific provision – people who make company policy

Yeshiva University- fulltime faculty were managerial employees outside the scope of the NLRA
Not supervisors b/c they do not look over other employees, just manage shit
bc fails to take into account degree of diffusion of responsibility in workplace

Confidential Employees

No specific exclusion, but they are excluded. Employees who have access to confidential labor-relations information

Secondary Schools operated by the Roman Catholic Church to the extent that their lay teachers sought representation à Catholic Bishop & Pacific Lutheran

Undocumented aliens

Employees under

local governments, including public schools, libraries, and parks, Federal Reserve banks, and wholly owned government corporations.



Interference, Restraint and Coercion

It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in §7 (self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection)

Types of §8(a)(1) violations à interfering/restraining/coercing:

Interrogation about union activities or protected concerted activities
Surveilling employee activities
Creating the impression of surveillance
Soliciting grievances and promising to remedy [i.e. asking employee what you can do to make them not go to the union] Directing employees not to get involved in the union and abandon their support of the union
Threaten to discharge
Unspecified reprisals [i.e. “it’s not going to be good for you if you join the union”] Futility of organizing [i.e. telling employee they are wasting their time]

It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization