The federal agency charged with enforcing U.S. labor laws announced that it had dismissed a charge filed against Ben Shapiro which accused the conservative pundit of unlawfully interfering with the rights of employees at the right-leaning political website Shapiro co-founded, The Daily Wire.
The complaint, filed by workers’ rights advocacy group “The Committee to Preserve the Religious Right to Organize” in September 2020, stemmed from a tweet Shapiro posted concerning reports that employees at Spotify were threatening to strike unless the streaming music and media company allowed them some degree of editorial oversight over podcaster Joe Rogan’s popular show. The show has featured far-right conspiracy theorist guests like Alex Jones and Owen Benjamin.
“I have a message for [Daily Wire] employees. If you ever attempt anything like this, you can consider your strike permanent,” Shapiro tweeted.
Shapiro then posted a follow-up tweet noting that employees of The Daily Wire “have the same NLRA protections as everyone else.”
Attorney Joel Fleming and the advocacy committee then filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which claimed that Shapiro’s statement constituted a violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Under that section, it is illegal for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the NLRA by threatening employees with adverse consequences for engaging in any kind of union activity, among other things.
Represented by the conservative-leaning legal nonprofit group the New Civil Liberties Alliance, Shapiro and the Daily Wire argued that the claim was “meritless,” asserting that Shapiro’s tweet was satirical in nature and protected by the First Amendment.
Following a seven-month long investigation that Shapiro’s legal team described as rife with “intrusive discovery request that were irrelevant to the alleged NLRA violation,” Fleming and the advocacy group withdrew the complaint, resulting in the charge being dismissed. But the federal agency noted in its formal decision, reached late last month, that the charge was being dismissed on the merits of the complaint.
“You alleged that the Charged Party violated Section 8(a)(1) of the [NLRA] when Co-Founder and Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro sent a tweet threatening to discipline employees on account of Union and/or protected activity; however, the investigation revealed that, even assuming a violation of the [NLRA], [Shapiro] effectively repudiated the conduct,” the board wrote, appearing to reference Shapiro’s follow-up tweet pertaining to employees’ rights.
The Daily Wire’s general counsel, Joshua Herr, praised the nonprofit legal group for its efforts in defending the outlet.
“NCLA did great work defending us from government overreach. In this case, frivolous complaints by a random Twitter user and a leftist lawyer whose legal education focused on Critical Race Studies co-opted a government agency to chill free speech by plaguing The Daily Wire for months with burdensome and harassing demands without accountability to a judge or jury,” Herr said in a statement, adding, “We are grateful that NCLA stood up for us.”
NCLA Litigation Counsel Adi Dynar said the case demonstrated problematic conduct typical of the federal labor agency.
“NLRB’s dismissal of these frivolous charges is welcome. But this incident showcases the sad reality that NLRB will look for ways to silence honest discussion and debate on social media platforms,” Dynar said. “Complying with unreasonable and unconstitutional investigatory demands can cost employers who did nothing wrong thousands of dollars. NLRB should, instead, make sure that a genuinely aggrieved party has filed a charge before launching a protracted investigation.”
Read the ruling below.
[image via image via Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Politicon]
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