About Us  |  About Cheetah®  |  Contact Us

Mississippi puts three more nails in the union coffin

April 22nd, 2014  |  Pamela Wolf

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

On Wednesday, April 16, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant gave his stamp of approval to three new bills that will presumably shore up Mississippi’s status as a right-to-work state. “Mississippi has some of the lowest union participation in the country, and these bills send a message that we will not tolerate efforts like intimidation,” Bryant said in conjunction with the signing of the triad of anti-union bills. “I believe that Mississippi’s right-to-work status is a competitive benefit for the state, and I intend to keep it that way.”

Mississippi legislators apparently could not pass up the chance to drive a few more nails in the coffins of unions as they continue to decline in the state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.2 percent of the 1,040,000 wage and salary workers employed in Mississippi in 2013 were represented by unions — a decline from 2012, when 5.7 percent of the 1,113,000 employed workers were represented by unions. Even fewer employed wage and salary workers were actually union members: 3.7 percent in 2013 and 4.3 percent in 2012.

The national union membership rate was 11.3 percent in 2013 — the same as in 2013. So, comparatively, Mississippi is doing a fine job of keeping employees out of unions or unions out of the state, or both. Mississippi has no minimum wage requirement, so for wage protection, workers in the state are stuck with Congress’ generosity, or lack of generosity, depending on your point of view.

Nonetheless, State Legislators gave unions (or workers, if you see that way) a kick in the pants by passing three new laws targeting already declining unions.

Coercion, intimidation, damage. As of July 1, 2014, SB 2473, the “Prohibition Against Employer Intimidation Act,” bars a person, organization, corporation, union, agency or other entity from damaging, harming, injuring, or threatening to injure or coerce a business, or any employee or representative of the business, with the aim of unlawfully intimidating the business or its employees from exercising rights protected by state and federal law, in an effort to obtain “something of value” for a public or private organization, corporation, union, agency or other entity. “Something of value” includes a neutrality agreement, card check agreement, collective bargaining recognition, or other objective of an organized initiative.

SB 2473 also attempts to restrict a business, a union, or the owners or employees of a business from exercising their rights protected under state and federal law in an effort to obtain something of value for a public or private organization, corporation, union, agency or other entity. Similarly banned is conspiracy with another for the purpose of disrupting lawful commerce in places of business when the activity amounts to assault or causes physical injury to any individual located in or around the place of business. Likewise prohibited is intentional or reckless damaging of the business property of another when the property is used by its owner or possessor in his or her profession, business, trade or occupation, or damaging or otherwise marking the property owner’s merchandise.

An amendment added prior to passage expressly states that nothing in SB 2473 is to be construed to infringe or impede upon any individual’s First Amendment rights.

Picketing and demonstrations. Under SB 2653, unions, labor unions, and their agencies as of July 1 are barred from engaging in mass picketing or mass demonstrations that obstruct or “unreasonably interfere” with free ingress or egress to and from any place of business. Nor may they act or conduct themselves in a way that would have the effect of obstructing or unreasonably interfering with the free use of business entryways, streets, sidewalks or rights-of-ways adjacent or contiguous to a business, or taking action that has or intends the effect of violence or intimidation near or contiguous to the business’s customers.

“Mass picketing” and “mass demonstration” means that a picket actually prevents an individual from reasonable free ingress to and egress from an entrance to a place of employment or residence, through obstruction by a person’s body or placement of a vehicle or other physical obstruction for such purpose; the picketing “prevents the pursuit of any entrance to a private residence, lawful work or employment.”

Unions, labor unions, and their agencies are also prohibited from singly or in concert with others, engaging in mass picketing or mass demonstrations so as to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with free ingress or egress of any person to and from a private residence. They also may not act or conduct themselves in a way that would effectively obstruct or unreasonably interfere with free use of residential driveways, streets, sidewalks or rights-of-ways adjacent to a residence or unreasonably interfere with the resident’s right to quiet enjoyment.

It is also unlawful for unions, labor unions and their agencies singly or in concert with others to use equipment or other objects to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with the free ingress or egress of any person to and from any private residence or place of business, or to act or conduct themselves in a way that would have the effect obstructing or unreasonably interfering with the free use of residential driveways, streets, sidewalks or rights-of-ways adjacent or contiguous to a residence. Nor may they obstruct or unreasonably interfere with free use of business entryways, streets, sidewalks or rights-of-ways adjacent to or contiguous to a business.

Violators may be convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced up to 6 months imprisonment or fined $500 or both. It is expressly not a defense under state law that an organization or individual has engaged in mass picketing or mass demonstrations to further an objective during a labor dispute.

Notably, under SB 2653, where an organization or individual is engaged in mass picketing at a business or private residence in the context of a labor dispute, the business or property owner can seek injunctive relief without the showing of irreparable harm.

The new law is not to be interpreted to alter or change the protections granted under the NLRA and the LMRA. The final version of SB 2653 also includes an amendment expressly stating that the new law is not to be construed to restrict an individual’s First Amendment rights.

Labor agreements. The third bill signed by Governor Bryant, SB 2797, the “Mississippi Employment Fairness Act,” retains to the state exclusive authority to make employers or multiemployer associations accept or otherwise agree to provisions of a labor peace agreement or mandatory or non-mandatory subjects of collective bargaining under federal labor laws, including limitations on an employer or multiemployer association’s rights to engage in collective bargaining with a labor organization, lock out employees, or operate during a work stoppage. The new law, which is effective July 1, does not, however, invalidate or otherwise restrict the state from requiring that project labor agreements be used to the extent permissible under federal labor laws.

Any agreement, contract, understanding or practice between an employer and a labor organization that includes requirements that violate SB 2797 are unlawful, null and void, and have no legal effect.

This section of the new law is required to be interpreted and enforced consistent with the NLRA.

The new law also gives the state exclusive authority to require that an employer or multiemployer association enter into a project labor agreement. However, employers and other persons covered by the NLRA are not prevented from entering into agreements or engaging in other activities protected by law.

This provision is not to be interpreted in a manner that interferes with the labor relations of NLRA-covered persons. Nor can relief that would interfere with the labor relations of NLRA-covered persons be granted.

Stay tuned! It will be interesting to see, given these new anti-union laws, how unions and workers in Mississippi fare in 2014.

Leave a Response

Powered by WP Hashcash