Employers No Longer Required to Allow Union Organizers in Public Spaces

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that employers no longer needed to permit union organizers in “public spaces” on their own property. As noted in an article in the National Law Review, this overturns 38 years of NLRB precedent, which previously required employers to allow union organizers to advocate in certain areas of the employer’s property that were open to the public.

The case in question, UPMC and SEIU, 368 NLRB No. 2 (June 14, 2019), involved labor advocates from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who were promoting unionization in the cafeteria at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), a Pittsburgh-based hospital. UPMC had a strict no-solicitation policy, however, and so the security guards asked the union organizers to leave. They refused, so security called the police to remove them from the premises. The SEIU organizers filed an unfair labor practices charge with the NLRB, leading to this case.

The NLRB’s ruling states that employers no longer need to permit union organizers on their premises, even in public spaces, if they permit union organizers to appeal to employees through other means and provided their no-solicitation policy is not specifically discriminatory against union organizers. While this decision is a reversal of their prior precedent, this brings the NLRB more in line with several federal circuit courts, which have increasingly eliminated or narrowed the rule that permits union organizers in public spaces on employer property. This ruling will particularly impact union organizing efforts in restaurants, cafeterias and other businesses with large spaces open to the public, where organizers counted on access to those public spaces to make their case to employees.

The laws and regulations surrounding unions and labor in New York are ever changing. It can be difficult for many employers to devote themselves to the time-consuming efforts to adjust their business practice to align by the letter of the law. When seeking how to comply with local, state, and federal laws, businesses should consult an experienced New York business and employment lawyer. The lawyers at Blodnick, Fazio & Clark are experienced in handling various matters relating to business and employment law, including labor disputes. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call our Nassau County employment lawyers at (516) 280-7105 or our Suffolk County employment lawyers at (631) 669-6300.

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