NLRB Region 7 in Detroit blocked vote for months at union bosses’ behest, but recent “blocking charge” reforms require the vote to move forward
Detroit, MI (August 11, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Michigan-based employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company are again petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 7 in Detroit for a vote to remove International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 bosses from their workplace. The petition comes after Region 7 officials held the employees’ first petition in abeyance based on unproven allegations IUOE bosses made against Rieth-Riley.
Employee Rayalan Kent submitted the new petition with signatures from well over the number of his coworkers required by law to trigger such a vote. Kent and his coworkers hope that new protections from the NLRB in Washington, DC, which became effective at the end of July, will better safeguard from union legal maneuvering their right to vote out the union. Kent’s Foundation-provided attorneys also invoked the reforms in a Request for Review submitted this April in defense of his first decertification petition, which the Board declined to grant.
After Kent submitted his original petition in March 2020, he was told by NLRB Region 7 officials via email that the election would be delayed “pending the investigation” of “blocking charges” filed by IUOE officials against the employer. However, the Region provided Kent no information regarding the charges or why they rose to the requisite level to block the employees’ petition. “Blocking charges” are filed by union bosses against employers to stop decertification votes requested by employees, and generally contain unrelated claims of employer wrongdoing.
However, one of the reforms the NLRB enacted through the rulemaking process (which became effective at the end of July) largely eliminates “blocking charges” as a means for delaying a vote. The NLRB’s new rules acknowledge the inherent unfairness of the previous system, and generally permit employees to immediately vote on whether a union should stay before the Board deals with any charges filed around the election. In the past, union officials could stay in power by blocking workers’ votes for months or even years while often unrelated allegations against employers were litigated.
When it issued the final rule in April, the NLRB dozens of times cited comments the Foundation submitted to it earlier this year. Those comments pointed out that the NLRB’s old “blocking charge” rules served only to keep union bosses in power while forbidding employees from exercising their right to vote to eliminate unwanted unions. They also pointed out the old rules are not required by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that the NLRB is charged with enforcing.
“Mr. Kent and his coworkers have now been fighting to free themselves from IUOE union boss stonewalling for far too long as the workers seek to exercise their right to vote out an unwanted union hierarchy,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “NLRB Region 7 officials should apply the new NLRB rules, and immediately schedule and hold a decertification vote for Mr. Kent and his fellow Rieth-Riley employees.”
Kent and his coworkers are not the only Michigan workers dealing with election delays from NLRB Region 7. Lansing, MI transportation worker Sandy Harris is asking the NLRB in Washington, DC, in an appeal to apply the new rules regarding “blocking charges” to allow a vote to remove Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) bosses to occur at her workplace. As with Kent’s case, the vote was postponed without even a hearing as to whether the union’s charges have merit or if they have a causal connection to the employees’ petition for an election.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.