Meat Company Asks Supreme Court to Deny Illegal Workers the Right to Join Unions
- LaborTalk by Harry Kelber
Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meat producer, is asking the Supreme Court to rule that illegal immigrants do not have a right to form or join trade unions. The basic argument of the company's lawyers will be: if undocumented immigrants are not allowed to work, why should they be entitled to the right to join a union?
The case dates back to September 2005, when the employees in Agriprocessors' Brooklyn plant voted 15 to 5 to join Local 342 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The workers, most of them from Mexico, joined the union for many of the same reasons that native-born Americans join: dissatisfaction with low pay, no health benefits, lousy working conditions.
A few days after the election, the company announced it would not recognize the union, because it 'discovered' that 17 of its employees were illegal immigrants. However, the NLRB went ahead and certified the union as bargaining agent, citing a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that illegal immigrant workers fall within the definition of 'employee' under the National Labor Relations Act (1935) and therefore have the right to join a union.