A Case Against a Top New York Restaurant Could Lower Barriers to Unions

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against the New York City restaurant group headed by the acclaimed chef Ignacio Mattos, saying that it engaged in illegal practices to dissuade workers from forming a union at Lodi, in Rockefeller Center.

The 24 allegations, some involving Mr. Mattos himself, include surveilling workers’ communications, telling employees that the restaurant would close if a union were formed and warning undocumented workers that their immigration status would be affected if they unionized.

The practices alleged are fairly common anti-union tactics. What is distinct about the case, though, is the new tool at the N.L.R.B.’s disposal: its recent ruling that lowers the bar for a union to win recognition.

The ruling, known as the Cemex decision for the construction-materials corporation it was first used against last August, allows the N.L.R.B. to order a company to recognize and bargain with a union — even when workers have voted a union down, as they narrowly did last year at Lodi — if the board’s general counsel can prove to an administrative law judge that management used unlawful union-busting methods that affected the election’s outcome.

Lodi was part of a major renovation of Rockefeller Center Plaza in 2021. Credit…Colin Clark for The New York Times

In April, the regional director of the board’s Manhattan office, John Doyle, issued the complaint, which seeks a Cemex order. Administrative law judges have imposed Cemex orders on three companies, but this is its first case involving a restaurant. If a judge deems that Mattos Hospitality acted unlawfully, the company will have to bargain with workers at Lodi — which would become one of only a few independent restaurants in New York with a union.

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