The workers who operate the scoreboard and video display for Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx games at Target Center are eligible to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled.
In a decision issued Aug. 18, the NLRB – the agency that oversees worker rights in private sector workplaces – rejected the Timberwolves’ claim that the workers are independent contractors.
The ruling means the workers are free to pursue union representation if they choose.
On Feb. 8, 2016, IATSE – the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees – filed a petition to represent the appx. 50 people on the roster who operate the four-sided video display hung over the Target Center basketball court. They include camera operators, replay and audio/tape operators, engineers and directors.
While the Target Center is owned by the City of Minneapolis, the Timberwolves operate the arena and employ the scoreboard workers.
In 2016, the NLRB’s regional office dismissed the union petition, saying the workers are independent contractors. The union then appealed to the board in Washington, D.C.
In a 2-1 decision by NLRB Chairman Philip Miscimarra and members Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran, the board said the Timberwolves function as an employer in several respects, including scheduling work, providing most of the equipment needed, setting a script to be followed and exerting “significant control” over the crewmembers’ work.
Unlike situations involving independent contractors, “the Employer holds and exerts control far exceeding that possessed by crewmembers themselves over when and how a crewmember will perform video-production work for it, as well as the manner and means by which that work is accomplished,” the NLRB said in its decision.
The Board also noted that most of the crew had worked for the Timberwolves for at least five years and formed a key part of the team's operations.
“The Employer has the burden of establishing that the crewmembers are independent contractors,” the board said. “We find that it has not carried its burden.”
While members Gaston Pearce and McFerran constituted the majority in favor of the workers’ right to unionize, NLRB Chair Philip Miscimarra dissented.
Interpreting many of the facts presented in the case differently, he said, “… the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that they [crewmembers] are independent contractors based on the distinct skills they possess, the fact that they are paid on a per-game basis, their freedom to take other work, and the fact that Timberwolves Basketball does not control the details of their work or supervise them.”
Miscimarra, originally nominated to the board in 2013 by President Obama, was named chairman by President Trump in April. Gaston Pearce and McFerran also were nominated to the NLRB by Obama, with Gaston Pearce serving as chair prior to Miscimarra.