NLRB Clarifies Protected Political Activity for Union Employees
Labor law does not protect a union employee fired for engaging in political activity that does not address the welfare of workers, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
An NLRB attorney said a Maryland lawmaker was legally fired from his job with a labor union for advocating for legislation on police accountability and transparency because his efforts lacked “connection to any employment concern of any employee.”
Gabriel Acevero, a delegate in Maryland’s part-time legislature, claimed the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 fired him as a union representative because he advocated for a bill limiting protections for police officers accused of misconduct.
His advocacy included testifying in favor of the bill.
But a letter from an NLRB advisory attorney said “the charge lacks merit and accordingly dismissal, rather than deferral, is appropriate absent withdrawal of the charge.”
Acevero withdrew his complaint.
While Local 1994 largely represents food service workers, it also represents some workers in law enforcement, and union officials were uncomfortable with the police reform law.
The NLRB considers employee activity before a political body protected “if it relates in some demonstrable way to employee concerns over wages, hours, or working conditions,” the letter said.
The letter referenced a 1989 case that determined an energy company employee’s testimony before the U.S. Senate and a state environmental committee was protected because it supported environmental safety laws that directly impacted working conditions of workers who handle toxic waste.
“The evidence establishes that [Acevero’s] advocacy for police reform—in his capacity as a Maryland state delegate testifying before a local county council and otherwise—had nothing to do with his employment as a union representative working for a labor organization representing, among others, uniformed police officers,” the letter said.
“Nor has he identified its connection to any employment concern of any employee.
“Instead, the evidence shows that [Acevero] acted in the interest of the community at large and in furtherance of his own political agenda” when he advocated for police reform, the letter concluded.
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