The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
New rule curtails union boss tactics used to block employees’ right to vote out unions they oppose
The Foundation’s comments helped the NLRB scrap its policy allowing “blocking charges,” which IUOE bosses used to stymie Rieth-Riley worker Rayalan Kent and his coworkers’ right to vote them out.
WASHINGTON, DC – Following two rounds of comments from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and over 8,000 petitions from Right to Work supporters, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued final rules substantially eliminating two pernicious tactics used by union bosses to stop workers from exercising their right to hold a vote to remove an unwanted union.
The NLRB’s new rules, finalized in April, dealt blows to the non-statutory “blocking charge” and “voluntary recognition bar” policies and to forced unionism schemes in the construction industry. All three reforms were encouraged by the Foundation’s initial January comments to the federal agency, which pressed the agency to get rid of all restrictions on decertification elections that are not mandated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
New Rule Knocks Down Three Rights Restrictions Targeted by Foundation
The new rule essentially eliminates union “blocking charges,” which union bosses file to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their right to vote to remove a union. Under the old rule, unions could block workers’ requested votes from taking place for months or even years by making one or multiple allegations against the employer, which were often unrelated to the employees’ decertification petition and frequently unsubstantiated.
Under the new rule, union charges cannot indefinitely stall the employees’ vote from taking place and in most instances the vote will occur without delay. Additionally, as the Foundation advocated, the NLRB modified its proposed rule so that after the employees vote, the ballots will be tallied and released in the vast majority of cases instead of being impounded and not counted.
This is a vast improvement on the NLRB’s original proposal to utilize a “vote and impound” system regarding employees’ decertification votes. Although such a system would have permitted employees to vote despite “blocking charges,” the results could have been withheld for months or years until the underlying “blocking charges” were resolved. Foundation staff attorneys argued against such a system in their January comments, pointing out that it would “frustrate and confuse employees who may have to wait years to see the election’s results,” while leaving the union in power the entire time.
The NLRB also substantially eliminated the so-called “voluntary recognition bar” policy. In the past, union officials had used this policy to block workers from requesting a secret-ballot election after the union had been installed as their monopoly bargaining agent through abuse-prone “Card Check” drives that bypass the NLRB-supervised secret-ballot election process. The Trump NLRB’s new rule reinstates a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp. NLRB decision.
Under the Dana Corp. system, employees subject to “Card Check” drives and so-called “voluntary recognition” can promptly file for a secret-ballot election to contest the installation of a monopoly representative at their workplace. Despite thousands of workers using this process to secure secret-ballot votes after being unionized through “Card Checks,” the Obama NLRB overturned Dana in 2010 over the objections of Foundation staff attorneys in a case called Lamons Gasket.
Additionally, the NLRB made changes advocated by the Foundation’s January comments to crack down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses are allowed to unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing any proof of majority union support among the workers.
Foundation Fights to Enforce Workers’ Right to Remove Unwanted Unions
Foundation staff attorneys are currently providing free legal aid to several workers who are challenging union boss attempts to stymie their right to vote out an unwanted union, even in light of the new NLRB protections.
In Michigan, NLRB Region 7 officials stifled Rieth-Riley Construction Company employee Rayalan Kent’s decertification petition that he submitted for his coworkers. Region 7 officials told him that the election would be held up “pending the investigation” of charges filed by Operating Engineers (IUOE) union bosses against Rieth- Riley, but never explained to him why IUOE bosses’ allegations were significant enough to affect their right to vote.
Foundation staff attorneys in April submitted a request for review for Kent and his coworkers to the NLRB in Washington, D.C., asking that the Board immediately permit them to exercise their right to vote to remove the unpopular IUOE union.
“While this NLRB still has much more to do, the long-awaited new rules represent significant steps towards fully protecting the statutory right of employees under the NLRA to remove a union opposed by a majority of workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The ‘blocking charge’ policy that is finally being modified has always been particularly odious in its treatment of employee rights, for it allows union allegations against an employer to be grounds for blocking the statutory rights of employees who are not accused of any wrongdoing.”
“Foundation supporters, who deluged the NLRB with demands to safeguard the right of rank-and-file employees to vote, free of coercion, on whether or not union bosses are worthy to speak for them in the workplace, should be proud that their voices helped spur these important reforms,” Semmens added.