Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, February 10, 2005

"All I Wanted Was a Free Magazine"

But what the president of decorating company nearly got was a full blown relationship with a union, including an obligation to pay fringe benefits into a union fund. When it didn't and the Trustees sued, it didn't take the courts long to untangle the would be magazine reader from the union agreement.
Somehow a one page free membership application to the Chicago Painting and Decorating contractors Association ended up on the desk of the CEO and sole owner of LaCosta, Inc., a company that provides painting and janitorial services. Just above the signature line was the following:

I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Constitution and By-Laws of the Chicago Council/PDCA and the Current Labor Management Agreement between Painter's District Council No. 14 and PDCA (copies available on request).

Although she didn't, if the owner of LaCosta had obtained those agreements before she faxed the application back, she would have found that she was delegating her bargaining rights to the Chicago PDCA.

Fortunately, all is well that ends well. Even though sued for failing to contribute to the Union pension plan, the Court ultimately found that the manner in which she came to sign the agreement "bordered on deception" and did not come close to meeting the standard of "unequivocal intention to be bound by group collective bargaining." Trustees of the Chicago Painters and Decorators Pension, Health and Welfare Funds v. LaCosta, Inc. (7th Cir. 2/10/05) [pdf]. Still a costly magazine subscription, that's for sure.

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