NLRB Tells Space Needle to Stop Unfair Labor Practices

Federal law officers’ claim that Space Needle LLC engaged in unfair labor practices by encouraging employees to resign from their union memberships.

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Space Needle LLC, is a private company owned by the descendants of construction entrepreneur Howard S. Wright, which owns and operates the Seattle Space Needle.

According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Space Needle LLC violated federal law by:

  • Interfering with union participation by distributing letters to employees encouraging resignation from the union, not paying union dues,
  • Coercing employees into not utilizing payroll deductions,
  • Failing to reinstate union workers after seasonal layoffs.

Collective Bargaining Contract Expires, Leads to Dispute

The conflict started when Space Needle LLC’s collective bargaining contract with union, Unite Here! Local 8, expired and the company quit withholding dues from employee paychecks. They agreed to reinstate the contract, but backed out a few weeks later. During this time, Space Needle management distributed letters to employees advising them of their options in regard to the union – including payment of dues and instructions on how to resign from the union.

NLRB Finds Company Communicated Unlawfully to Employees

According to the NLRB, Space Needle LLC acted in an unlawful manner:

  • Letter distribution happened outside of a contractually established window period for cancellation.
  • Letters notified employees of future window periods for cancelling dues and suggested bypassing those periods by resigning from the union immediately.
  • Letters contained instructions on how to resign from the union and informed employees they could obtain a sample resignation letter from their human resources department.
  • Management attempted to monitor its employees’ responses to these letters by requiring the sample resignation letters be requested directly from human resources or their direct managers.
  • Management unlawfully coerced an employee by telling him that he would face financial consequences if he opted to take advantage of the payroll deduction by stating he would owe six months of back dues.
  • Manipulating the reinstatement of union workers with seniority after seasonal lay-offs.

Space Needle management defends their actions by stating that the information they tracked was necessary for resuming the dues deduction program. The NLRB maintains that by having the resignation form available through human resources, tracking which employees requested the form, as well as which employees provided a completed form to human resources or their manager, placed management in the position of knowing exactly which employees chose to resign their union memberships and those who didn’t, thereby creating a climate of fear and intimidation. A violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

To the charge of not reinstating laid-off employees, management states that they didn’t have sufficient business to bring back said union workers. A claim that the NLRB disputes, stating Space Needle management unlawfully failed to bring back union employees from layoff because one of the employees assisted the union and engaged in concerted activity.

Space Needle can appeal this decision, but the company hasn’t yet responded to the NLRB decision and order.

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