Workers at Mardi Gras Casino started talking to the union UNITE-HERE about helping them form a union. UNITE-HERE made a deal with the Casino: Don’t launch an aggressive anti-union campaign, recognize the union once half the workers agree to it, and in return, we won’t strike. This is an incredibly common tactic for unions, and some estimates say that as much as 50% of union campaigns are won this way.
So Mardi-Gras and UNITE-HERE sign a contract with those terms. Mardi-Gras initiates an anti-union campaign anyway, and UNITE-HERE sues. Mardi-Gras responded with a defense that the contract never had any weight because it was illegal, so they never had to honor it. They claim it was illegal because anti-corruption laws prevent employers exchanging “things of value” with unions, and they argue that this contract is a thing of value.
Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor law at Harvard Law School, said the case before the Supreme Court was potentially “the most significant labor case in a generation.”
This shows pretty clearly how union contracts fuck workers over: The executives of union businesses like UNITE-HERE cut a deal with the executives of employers like Mardi-Gras and effectively disarm the workers by taking away their right to strike. UNITE-HERE wins representation in the workplace and makes money, and although the workers get some gains, they are effectively just as powerless over the daily life of their workplace as they were before. And eventually, the employer skirts the contract anyway. Gains can only be secured through workers’ economic power - their ability to strike or slow down work.
Read more here