If you're a parent who is accustomed to helping your local Girl Scouts sell their cookies in front of your local grocery store, don't be surprised if, very soon, you learn that you're not welcome anymore. Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts, as well as other charitable organizations, may soon become the victims of a power play by the union-controlled National Labor Relations Board and union bosses who want to further muscle their way onto employers' private property.
Last February, a group of Girl Scouts planning to sell their cookies in front of a Richmond, Virginia grocery store were turned away from the store by its new owners.
“In the past, Ukrop’s has helped several non-profit, charitable, and service organizations in their fundraising efforts by allowing them to use the sidewalk space near the entrance of their stores,” the statement, which is excerpted in a notice on the state Girl Scout Web site, reads. “As we make the transition to new ownership, Giant/Martin’s new sidewalk policy does not make provisions for sidewalk vending at any of their stores.”
Were the stores' new owners against Girl Scouts selling cookies? Probably not. More likely, the concern was that by allowing one group (be it the Girl Scouts, the Red Cross or the Salvation Army) onto the stores' sidewalks, it would force the stores' to open their sidewalks to union organizers (or leafleting) as well.
Back in November, the National Labor Relations Board invited interested parties to file briefs on a case involving an employer's private property rights. On Friday, a coalition of employers filed an amicus brief [PDF] with the NLRB with regard to the little known case called Roundy's. According to the coalition's press release [emphasis added]:
The case before the NLRB is Roundy’s vs. Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades (Case No. 30-CA-17185). At issue is whether the government can force any employer that allows charitable, well-meaning groups onto the premises to also allow union organizers whose purpose in many cases is to turn away customers through boycotts and similar actions. Such activity is often part of a larger strategy to pressure employers to accede to demands such as the nationally unpopular “card check” scheme that bypasses federally supervised private ballot votes.
The decision also would allow unions to go on the business owner’s property with the intent of running the company out of business – a real threat to many small businesses and entrepreneurs. Should the NLRB curtail employers’ property rights, the result could be a significant disincentive for employers to allow charities and community groups onto their premises, as well as subjecting customers and employees to harassment and labor strife. CDW’s brief argues strongly in favor of protecting customers, employees, and employers and advocates that the Board “should allow employers to refuse non-employee union access to private property, particularly where such labor organizations seek to engage in harmful boycott activities.”
Union bosses claim that if the business has invited other outside groups such as Girl Scouts, Salvation Army Santas, bloodmobiles, and other charitable organizations that do not intend to harm the employer’s operations, the employer must provide union agents the same access, even if the union’s intent is to harm the business.
As businessman Brett McMahon explained on the Halt the Assault blog [emphasis added]:
If this new request by union leaders is allowed to become law, its effect will be for many business operators like myself to have no choice but to close doors to any outside groups. The impact to charities ability to operate and reach support would be devastating. Ultimately, unions are trying to make sure that no one wins.
Sorry, Girl Scouts. Sorry, Boy Scouts. Sorry, Red Cross. And the local soup kitchen. This is not hyperbole. This is a direct threat to the ability for small business to say who comes onto their property and how they affect their business.
And I can tell you one thing: no matter your own view on the history and current role of unions, any business owner worth their salt would immediately shut their workplace to all outside organizations because it’s economic suicide to welcome those whose stated purpose is to drive up your costs and in many cases are there to seek consumer boycotts or other damaging actions.
Keep an eye out, or your business may have to choose between supporting your community or wearing the union label.
The NLRB will likely decide this issue in the not-too-distant future. However, based on the NLRB's union leanings, the Girl Scouts (and other groups) should not get their hopes up.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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