Architectural Workers United claims Snøhetta “unlawfully discriminated” against employees

Aerial photo of New York City

US labour organiser Architectural Workers United has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against architecture studio Snøhetta, claiming that it discriminated against employees during a recent union drive.

The charges were announced yesterday by Architectural Workers United (AWU), a sub-division of the national labour union Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

In the suit filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), AWU claimed that Snøhetta, which has US offices in New York and San Francisco, “unlawfully discriminated against several employees for exercising their right to engage in concerted activities”.

“Today’s filing sends a message to the architecture industry that they are no different from any other industry and that if employers use illegal tactics to obstruct their employees from organizing, they will be held accountable,” said IAM eastern-territory general vice president David Sullivan.

The alleged violations come after the union announced early last month that attempts to unionise the architecture studio’s offices in the United States were unsuccessful, after a 35-29 vote against it.

IAM alleged that Snøhetta violated sub-section one of section eight of the National Labor Relations Act, which states, “[i]t shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section” – as well as sub-section three, which deals with “discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment”.

The charges were addressed to Snøhetta New York principal Elaine Molinar. Snøhetta was approached for comment

“They will be held accountable”

“The architecture is no different than any other industry,” said AWU in an Instagram post. “If employees use illegal tactics to obstruct their employees from organizing, they will be held accountable.”

“That’s all we can share right now as the government begins its investigation,” it continued.

Snøhetta employees first filed the petition to unionise in early May of this year in order to “gain a collective voice”, according to a press release put out via AWU.

At the time, management told Dezeen that it supported “our employees’ right to seek self-determination”.

However, after the vote failed, AWU alleged that Snøhetta had brought on on law firm Stinson LLP. The AWU alleged that the law firm helped Snøhetta run a “coordinated anti-union campaign”.

If it had been successful, Snøhetta would have joined Bernheimer Architecture, which last year became the first private architecture practice in the United States to have union membership.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash.

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