Q2 2023

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16 C I N E M O N T A G E G E T T I N G O R G A N I Z E D PARDON THE INTERRUPTION RIGHTS FOR WORKERS OFTEN COME AFTER BOSSES DRAG THEIR FEET – WHICH IS WHY LABOR UNITY IS SO IMPORTANT Rob Callahan. By Rob Callahan There's a sign on the receptionist's desk in the West L.A. offices of the National Labor Relations Board: "We Guarantee Fast Ser- vice, No Matter How Long It Takes." Certain jokes are funny because they're true. This particular joke, to my sense of humor, is a bit too true to be funny. Take an illustrative case: Half a decade ago, a mercurial billionaire casually fired off a public threat to thousands of his em- ployees. It came in the form of a tweet sent about15 minutes before midnight on the evening of May 20, 2018. With 248 charac- ters tapped into a mobile device, Elon Musk warned employees of the automaker Tesla that they would lose their stock options in the company if they voted to unionize with the United Auto Workers. That tweet broke the law. But the Law, as we will see, was already and remains broken. Bosses can f ight the Law, and, although the Law may eventually win, any such victory might be so long deferred as to be rendered something close to a stalemate. The National Labor Relations Act — the federal law that enshrines employees' r i g h t s t o o r g a n i z e — w a s e n a c t e d i n 1935, an age when such things as tweets and Teslas would have seemed the stuff of science f iction. But bosses' abuse of their power is timeless, and the Act fully anticipated strong-arming of the kind contained in Musk's 2018 tweet. The law explicitly makes it illegal "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of [their] rights." The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — the agency responsible for administering the National Labor Relations Act; they are, if you will, the Law in matters of labor law — has long and repeatedly ruled that threatened repercussions (e.g., the loss of compen- sation) constitute precisely that kind of prohibited coercion. Different umps will make different calls. And I'm no umpire: I'm a partisan, not a neutral; I'll take labor's versus manage- ment's side each and every time. That said, Musk's tweet threatening Tesla workers' stock options didn't fall into some ambig- uous gray area of the law — it wasn't even close to the line. Don't take my word for it: the three-member panel that unanimously c o n c l u d e d M u s k 's t w e e t wa s i l l e ga l l y coercive included two staunchly pro-man- agement Trump appointees, lawyers who'd made careers out of fighting unions on behalf of bosses. Decades of case law have afforded union-busting employers a lot of latitude and loopholes permitting them to lean hard on their employees, without technically running afoul of the Act. But e v e n t h e m a n a ge m e n t - s i d e a tto r n e y s Trump installed on the Labor Board, whose very raison d'être was to limit labor 's power, agreed that Musk's tweet was well out of bounds. One of the curious things about our information age is the fact of digital perma- nence. We can now never really dispose of our throwaway thoughts; ephemera endure (often embarrassingly) somewhere in the cloud for all eternity. Even so, it seems odd for us to be paying attention to a tweet five years after the moment in which it was hastily tapped out and sent off into the world. Indeed, the fact that we're still talking about it, after the passage of so much time, is the point: when management comes at us with the instantaneous speed of tweets and Teslas, the law lumbers onto the scene with carrier pigeons and Conestoga wagons. It takes only a blink of an eye for bosses to union-bust, but what passes for justice plods along at the pace of a burdened, bumbling, bro - ken-down bureaucracy. Let's review this tweet's life to date. Musk made the threat to take away his employees' stock options, were they to unionize, on May 20, 2018. Only a few days later — on May 23, 2018 — lawyers for the

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