Nebraska Union Caught Running an Illegal Hiring Hall

Companies setting up exhibits for trade shows frequently are required to use employees provided by the exhibition hall for manual labor. This provides Companies with a ready source of qualified workers to complete their set-up and tear-down. This also provides unions with the opportunity to enter into exclusive hiring hall arrangements with the exhibition hall. For example, when the boat show comes to town, the exhibition hall orders workers from the union’s hiring hall to transport the boats, erect stages, set up lighting – everything down to running extension cords to the nearest outlet.

The Association of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 151 had a typical exclusive hiring arrangement with Freeman Decorating Services in Lincoln, Nebraska. Since Nebraska is a right to work state, the arrangement required the union to treat union members and nonmembers equally in job referrals to Freeman. But, ATSE discriminated against nonmembers by removing them from the job referral system – ostensibly because nonmembers do not pay full union dues.

ATSE did the same thing at the SMG Pershing Center. One of ATSE’s defenses was that it did not have an exclusive hiring arranging with SMG, so it could not have violated the law. Wrong. The past practice between SMG and ATSE showed the parties had an unofficial exclusive hiring arranging. SMH always hired through the union and could supplement workers only if ATSE could not meet the staffing demands of an event.

ATSE now owes back wages to the nonmembers it unlawfully removed from the job referral system for not paying full union dues.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers throughout the U.S.A. dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at