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Company's Call to Police for Union Activity Was Legal, Court Rules

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

A federal appeals court ruled that a company did not violate labor laws by asking police to remove union organizers who were promoting the union on a public road and company property.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the National Labor Relations Board, which had ruled in favor of the Service Employees International Union. The appeals court said the union organizers had walked repeatedly onto the company's driveway.

Under the circumstances, the company acted reasonably in calling the police. That's the story in National Labor Relations Board v. ImageFIRST Uniform Rental Service.

Interfering With Employee Rights

ImageFIRST Uniform Rental Service provides laundry services to the health care industry. It has a non-union facility in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

In December 2016, several union members were distributing pro-union literature along a road outside the Columbia facility. The general manager there called police and asked that they remove the union members from company property, which included a grassy area abutting the road.

The union filed a labor complaint, and an administrative judge decided the company unlawfully interfered with union activities under 29 U.S.C. § 157 Section 8(a)(1). The judge said the "trespassing was insignificant to warrant the removal of the union representatives."

The NLRB affirmed the decision, but the Third Circuit reversed. The appeals court said the incursion on company property was more than insignificant.

More Than Insignificant

The union members repeatedly walked onto the company driveway to leaflet vehicles -- even after they had moved off the grassy area. A union representative -- apparently unwittingly -- even handed a leaflet to the general manager on the driveway.

The appeals court said the NLRB ignored these facts. The judges denied the administrative agency's application to enforce its decision.

ImageFIRST may have been wrong about union members on the shoulder of the road, but the company was right about union activity on its own property, the court said.

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