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Supreme Court rules on organizing.

Supreme Court rules on organizing A recent Supreme Court decision addressed the question of whether a union may trespass on an employer's property to recruit new union members. The Court ruled that Lechmere, an operator of a chain of New England retail stores, did not violate the National Labor Relations Act-and by definition, commit an unfair labor practice-when it prevented representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers from distributing union literature in the parking lot of the shopping plaza where the Lechmere store was located. (Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 90-970, January 27, 1992.)

The court reversed a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-the Federal agency that administers the National Labor Relations Act-arguing that the law conferred rights only on employees, not on unions or union organizers, and that the union had reasonable access to employees without access to the employer's property.

The law guarantees employees "the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations." The law forbids an employer "to interfere with, or coerce employees in their exercise of [these] rights . . ." Any prohibited interference by an employer with the rights of employees to organize, form, join, or assist a labor organization is an unfair labor practice and a violation of the law.

In 1987, the union began a drive to organize 200 nonunion employees at Lechmere's Newington, CT, store. After an unsuccessful attempt to gain employees' attention through a local newspaper advertisement, union organizers distributed handbills and placed fliers on windshields of automobiles in the employees' section of the parking lot. The lot was owned jointly by Lechmere and the plaza's developer, but was open to the public. The company restricted the union's distribution of union materials to automobiles as they entered the parking lot from a busy public highway.

The union filed an unfair labor practices charge against Lechmere, claiming the company violated labor law by preventing the union from organizing its employees. The NLRB ruled that Lechmere had violated the law. After a Federal appeals court in Boston subsequently upheld the NLRB, Lechmere appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
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Title Annotation:Lechmere Inc. versus National Labor Relations Board
Author:Cimini, Michael H.; Behrmann, Susan L.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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