“Contract bar” manipulated by union bosses to maintain power in workplace despite valid employee-backed petition for vote to remove union
Washington, DC (January 14, 2021) – Two Transdev employees working at the Fairfax Connector are asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, to review their case, which seeks to remove Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2 as their monopoly representative. The pair filed a Request for Review with the NLRB with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is based in Springfield, VA.
The petitioner, Amir Daoud, and proposed substitute petitioner, Sheila Currie, are asking that the full NLRB overturn the “contract bar.” That is a non-statutory NLRB policy which forbids employees from exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union for up to three years after their employer and union finalize a monopoly bargaining contract. Based on this restrictive policy, the NLRB Regional Director in Baltimore dismissed Daoud’s petition for an NLRB-supervised vote to eliminate the union, despite the fact that the petition was signed by the requisite number of his coworkers to trigger such a “decertification” vote.
Daoud and Currie’s Foundation-provided attorneys point out that the “contract bar” is utterly absent from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB enforces. They argue that it should be eliminated because it infringes on rank-and-file employees’ right under the NLRA to remove unions that lack majority support.
The Request for Review notes that in June 2020, after almost a year of talks, Transdev workers voted down a tentative agreement that had been presented to them by an OPEIU agent. Despite this, the Request for Review states, in October 2020 “a Union representative informed certain [employees] via teleconference that he had negotiated a new agreement” and “‘intended’ to sign it without a ratification vote.” He did not tell employees when he planned to sign the contract.
Following news of union officials’ plan to charge ahead with the contract without employee consent, Daoud filed the decertification petition on November 10, 2020. The Request for Review notes that he and his coworkers were only informed after the petition’s filing that the new contract had been signed by union agents on October 30 and Transdev representatives on October 31.
NLRB Region 5 in Baltimore dismissed the decertification petition on December 22, ruling that the “contract bar” applied because the employees’ decertification petition was submitted just after the new contract was signed, even though the employees had no way of knowing whether or when that signing would occur. This prompted Daoud and Currie to ask the NLRB in Washington to review their case. Because Daoud recently accepted a job with Transdev outside the OPEIU’s monopoly bargaining control, the Request for Review asks the NLRB to recognize Currie as the new petitioner to represent the interests of the workers who signed the decertification petition.
The Request for Review contends that the “contract bar” should be nixed because it is “contrary to the [NLRA’s] paramount objectives of employee self-representation and free choice” and “has the effect of forcing unwanted representation on employees for as long as three years.” The Request exposes the arbitrariness of the “contract bar,” pointing out that the NLRB Regional Director applied it “merely because the Union ‘won the race’ and signed the contract ten days” before Daoud submitted the petition, even though the petition clearly demonstrated the employees’ interest in voting the union out.
Foundation attorneys are currently litigating two other cases for workers whose right to vote out an unpopular union has been stymied by the “contract bar.” Most notably, Delaware Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa and his coworkers are currently waiting for the NLRB to rule on their Foundation-backed case challenging United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses’ similar attempts to block their right to vote the union out.
In that case, UFCW officials claim that the “contract bar” should apply to bar any elections at Mountaire, despite an NLRB Regional Director allowing the vote based on his finding that the union contract contained an invalid forced dues clause. When the UFCW bosses asked the full NLRB to review the Region’s order allowing the election, Cruz Sosa filed a brief urging that, if the Board granted the review, it should use the opportunity to review the entire non-statutory “contract bar” policy. The Board is now doing just that. The UFCW union bosses are even arguing that the impounded ballots already cast by Mountaire workers should be destroyed, claiming the election should never have been held.
In Daoud and Currie’s Request for Review, Foundation attorneys ask that if the NLRB decides not to review their case, it should at least hold it in abeyance pending the ruling in Cruz Sosa’s similar case. Additionally, just a week ago, Foundation attorneys submitted a similar Request for Review to the NLRB for armored transport guards in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who are seeking to remove Private Security and Valuables Transit Professionals Union officials from their workplace.
“The facts of this case demonstrate exactly why the contract bar should be eliminated. After workers voted to reject an earlier proposed union contract, union bosses surreptitiously entered into a contract behind workers’ backs in an attempt to ‘game the system’ and use the ‘contract bar’ to block workers from voting them out,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The ‘contract bar’ is an affront to the federal labor law’s supposed protection of employee free choice. It merely serves to entrench self-serving union bosses even when there is clear evidence that the very workers that they claim to represent want them gone.”
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.