The lesson here for employers is: when a union comes knocking, you can fight back, but be careful how you use your employees to do so.
As part of its effort to unionize a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, the United Food and Commercial Workers distributed pro-union flyers to grocery customers in front of the store. Angry customers complained to the grocery store management. In response, Fresh & Easy began passing out flyers inside its store. The grocery’s flyer apologized to customers for any inconvenience they had been caused by the union protestors and gave the customer a $5 coupon for store merchandise. The flyer was also critical of the United Food and Commercial Workers and the union’s attempt to organize store employees.
Store managers required employees to personally hand the flyer to store customers. At least two employees objected to the assignment. They complained the flyer was untruthful and that requiring them to distribute anti-union flyers infringed on their right to support the union.
For the most part, the flyers were OK. However, the National Labor Relations Board came after Fresh & Easy for its method of distribution. The Labor Board found that requiring employees to pass out anti-union flyers violated their right to support unionization and had the effect of forcing some employees to reveal whether they supported the United Food and Commercial Workers or not.
About the author
Charlie Plumb is a labor and employment attorney with the McAfee & Taft law firm. He represents management in all phases of employment law and labor relations. Much of his practice is dedicated to counseling employers on compliance with a broad range of state and federal employment laws and regulations and educating management on best practices for avoiding disputes arising from the employer/employee relationship. He also has extensive litigation experience before federal and state courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and in arbitration matters involving claims of discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliatory discharge, breach of contract, and constitutional law violations.
As part of his labor practice, Charlie represents unionized employers in collective bargaining negotiations with labor unions, arbitrates grievances, and defends management against a variety of claims before the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Justice and in state and federal courts. He also represents employers who seek to maintain a non-unionized workforce by counseling management on union avoidance strategies and by providing training and advice to management and supervisors. His clients include numerous municipalities throughout Oklahoma and companies engaged in the manufacturing and distribution, construction, energy, public utility, technology and business services industries.
Charlie is a member of the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section and the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Labor Council. He is also the designated representative of McAfee & Taft as the exclusive member firm representing Oklahoma in the Employers Counsel Network, a nationwide affiliation of leading law firms providing legal assistance and representation to employers.
Charlie is a frequent speaker and author on workplace issues. He is also co-editor of the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter, a monthly review of new court decisions, regulations and laws that affect state employers.
Charlie’s achievements have earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (labor and employment law), Oklahoma Super Lawyers (employment and labor, civil litigation defense), Benchmark Litigation and Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, where he has been lauded as “an impressive public speaker who utilizes his vast experience to effectively defend clients.” Researchers at Chambers & Partners also quoted market observers as admiring him for his “practicality of advice and specialized knowledge of complex legal issues,” with sources commenting that he “immediately commands respect, is always up to date and knows how to handle a problem.”