Court Says Free Trip Wrongfully Influenced Unionization Vote

The Communications Workers of America’s offer of a free trip to Chicago so employees of Comcast Cablevision could attend a union meeting on cable industry issues unduly influenced the outcome of a representation election among the 50 eligible workers, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled Nov. 14, reversing the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. Refusing to enforce an NLRB order certifying CWA Local 4100 as the bargaining agent of Comcast’s employees in Taylor, Mich., the court held that CWA’s offer of $50 worth of transportation and one night’s lodging so employees could attend a two-hour union meeting on cable industry issues unduly influenced the 31-17 vote in favor of union representation.

“Providing transportation and one night’s lodging so that the employees could have a free weekend in Chicago in conjunction with the two-hour union meeting was sufficiently valuable to influence the vote without relation to the merits of the election,” wrote Judge Ronald Lee Gilman.

In reversing the NLRB, the court found that the offer of the free weekend trip was sufficiently valuable to have the potential to influence the employees’ votes. Gilman pointed to NLRB’s own past decisions as influencing the court’s determination. He said that if the NLRB could find that the distribution of hats and T-shirts (NLRB v. Shrader’s Inc. (1991)) and $16 jackets (Owens-Illinois Inc., (1984)) could influence an employee’s vote, then a free weekend trip to Chicago, valued at $50, certainly could, as well. [BNA 11/16/00]