A Victory for Contractor Employers

On August 7, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the National Labor Relations Board’s finding that District Council 82 (MN/WI) of the Laborers’ International Union of North America committed an unfair labor practice by engaging in an unlawful secondary boycott against a fence installation contractor. The NLRB charge in the case was filed by Peters, Revnew, Kappenman & Anderson, P.A. attorneys on behalf of Lake Area Fence, with support from Century Fence.

The NLRB, as affirmed by the Court, found that the Laborers Union had unlawfully refused to sign a Section 8(f) pre-hire agreement with Lake Area Fence because the Company installed fencing as a subcontractor for Century Fence. Century Fence was a non-union supplier of fencing materials, and served as a “construction manager” for fencing work on both union and non-union job sites. Although Century Fence had no laborer employees, the Laborers Union had for several years attempted to pressure it to sign a union contract. This pressure included threats that the Union would refuse to renew Section 8(f) agreements with Century’s union subcontractors, and then ultimately the Union’s refusal to sign a new Section 8(f) agreement with Lake Area Fence.

The NLRB, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, found that the Union’s refusal to sign a contract with Lake Area was coercive. Further, because that refusal was for the purpose of forcing Lake Area to cease doing business with Century, it amounted to unlawful secondary boycott activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

The case makes clear that while execution of Section 8(f) pre-hire agreements is voluntary, a union’s refusal to sign such a contract solely for a secondary boycott purpose is an unfair labor practice. This precedent should help prevent unions from pressuring the union company of a “double-breasted” operation to close or to force the non-union company to “sign up” by refusing to sign with the union company.

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