CHICAGO — A federal judge has granted an injunction in a dispute between the National Labor Relations Board and a company which provides security at O'Hare International Airport, requiring the security firm to rehire two employees it had recently fired amid a dispute over whether the men, who were engaged in union organizing activities, had disclosed "sensitive security information" to the press.
The injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin, requires Universal Security Company to rehire Marcie Barnett and Sadaf Subijano, who have maintained they were fired because of their involvement in union organizing activities.
The dispute originated from a conversation Barnett and Subijano had with the media about a strike. During the conversation, they mentioned their names, their positions with Universal and demands regarding work conditions, according to the court order.
Universal took issue with the conversation and terminated the employees. The plaintiff’s union, the Service Employees International Union, filed a lawsuit alleging Universal violated Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board, which then sued for an injunction, demanding that the plaintiffs be rehired until the dispute is settled.
Durkin's argument to determine if an injunction should be granted centered on Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, according to the court order.
Under this section, an injunction can be issued while the National Labor Relations Board is resolving an unfair labor practices case if it has no other legal remedy, the union and the public would suffer "irreparable harm" if no relief is granted, the potential harm to the union is greater than the harm to the employer and the board has a reasonable chance of winning the case.
Durkin determined the NLRB made a sufficient argument and granted the injunction, ordering Universal to rehire Barnett and Subijano.
Durkin's rationale primarily centered on the harm that would occur to the union if the injunction were not granted.
“[T]he discharge of active and open union supporters risks a serious adverse impact on employee interest in unionization and can create irreparable harm to the collective bargaining process,” Durkin wrote in the order.
Universal had countered, citing a warning notice that Universal allegedly had received from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Universal argued the notices showed the TSA believed Barnett and Subijano disclosed sensitive security information (SSI) to the media.
The argument, however, did not convince Durkin.
“The ‘warning notices’ do not constitute a final adjudication of any issue, nor do they include any analysis of Barnett’s and Subijano’s statements with respect to the regulatory definition of SSI,” Durkin said in the order.
In addition to ordering Universal to rehire Barnett and Subijano, Durkin also barred Universal from enforcing its rule prohibiting employees from speaking to the media.
Universal was represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Cremer, Spina, Shaughnessy, Jansen & Siegert LLC, of Chicago.