Jan Von Bergen at the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that work on Comcast’s new tower came to a halt this morning when striking members of Local 542 picketed the Comcast tower project and other union trades refused to cross the picket line. However, this show of solidarity (during the afternoon on the Friday before the Fourth of July) is unlikely to last past the long weekend. Why? Because any conduct by Local 542 aimed at encouraging a work stoppage by other union members is illegal and the companies that employ the sympathetic union members are in breach of contract if they do not work on Tuesday.
Any actions by Local 542 to encourage members of a different trade unions to honor their picket line is a secondary boycott. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits secondary boycotts. Specifically, the NLRA prohibits a union for inducing employees of an employer not subject to a labor dispute to refuse to work.
The Comcast tower situation is a classic secondary boycott. The primary employer – the employer in the labor dispute with the Operators – is the subcontractor that employs the members of the Local 542. Everyone else – Comcast, the general contractor, the other trade subcontractors – are secondary employers and inducing their employees to stop working is prohibited.
Also, the subcontractors that do not employ members of Local 542 have a duty to perform their work regardless of a labor dispute with another contractor. You can be sure that the attorneys for the general contractor have sent letters to the subcontractors that employed the union members that showed solidarity today reminding them that their members have to cross the picket line and work or they (the subcontractor) will be in breach of contract. In turn, those union members that showed solidarity today will also want to work so they can get paid. So, come Tuesday, I am sure there will be a bunch of “hey brother I support you, but I have a mortgage to pay.”