Supreme Court dismiss union organizing case

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:56am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a case concerning the practice of unions making agreements with private-sector employers when organizing workers, leaving lower courts divided on the issue.

The court said in a one-sentence unsigned opinion that the justices should not have decided to hear the case. The case, in which the court heard oral arguments in November, focused on whether "neutrality agreements," which have been in use for decades, should be prohibited.

Three of the nine justices said the court should have decided the case.

The legal question was whether such agreements constitute a "thing of value" under the Labor Management Relations Act. Under the law, anything deemed to be of value could be viewed as a bribe.

The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, was brought by an employee of Mardi Gras Gaming, a casino and dog track in Hollywood, Florida.

Martin Mulhall, the employee, said his employer violated the labor law when it agreed to allow the union, Unite Here Local 355, onto its property to organize workers and when the company agreed to give the union contact information for employees in exchange for the union's support on a ballot initiative.

The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal trial court in Florida dismissed Mulhall's case, saying the law did not allow for such a claim. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, saying that organizing assistance could be deemed a "thing of value." By dismissing the case, the court left intact the appeals court ruling in favor of Mulhall.

The case is Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-99.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Doina Chiacu)