Catholic University Law Review


Michael C. Duff


Recently, workers led by non-union labor advocacy groups, popularly labeled “ALT-Labor,” staged strikes and other job actions across the low-wage economy. Some observers see this activity as the harbinger of a reinvigorated labor movement or as audacious dissent by low-wage workers with nothing to lose. Others view the activity cynically as an exercise in futility, a struggle against inexorable market forces that refuse to pay $15 per hour to a fast food restaurant or big box retail worker. This article presumes that employers will respond to ALT-Labor in a historically typical manner—by seeking labor injunctions and civil damages in courts. Labor injunctions are available under certain sections of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) when “labor organizations” violate those sections. This article specifically considers whether ALT-Labor groups, though not unions in the traditional sense, are “labor organizations” under the LMRA, in which case they may be subject to federal court injunction and civil damages under the LMRA. The article concludes that ALT-Labor’s labor organization status is uncertain and will turn on a given group’s explicit statement of a “labor organization-like” purpose, and on whether it behaves like a statutory labor organization. Litigation premised on the labor organization status of an ALT-Labor group, therefore, poses risk for both sides—business and ALT-Labor.