Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rules that unwilling employees can’t be trapped in union for seven years
Philadelphia, PA (June 16, 2016) – Thanks to the efforts of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Kaolin Mushroom Farms employees have won a decision upholding their vote to remove the Kaolin Workers Union (KWU). The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court unanimously ratified the results of a March 2015 union decertification election that evicted the KWU.
In September 2014, Kaolin Farms employee Roberto Morales filed a decertification petition indicating that he and his coworkers were dissatisfied with the union and wished to hold a vote to remove the KWU. A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) Secretary initially dismissed the petition on the grounds that the union’s presence could not be challenged for a seven-year period after its contract with the employer was adopted. According to the Secretary, this “contract bar” would remain in force until October 2, 2016, the earliest date an election could be held under that bar.
Foundation staff attorneys helped Morales file an objection to this decision with the full PLRB, arguing that unwilling employees shouldn’t be kept in union ranks for such a lengthy period, and that there is no basis in Pennsylvania law for the seven-year contract bar. The PLRB eventually decided to hold a secret ballot election in March 2015, which resulted in Kaolin Farms employees rejecting the union by a decisive margin.
Instead of accepting the employees’ verdict, union lawyers filed objections to the election outcome, once again arguing that a vote could not be held until after the seven-year contract bar had expired. Fortunately for Morales and his coworkers, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled unanimously that the employees could not be denied a vote to oust the union for such a long time. Instead, the court ruled that, after three years, the contract no longer could block a decertification vote by employees seeking to remove the union.
“Thanks to the efforts of Roberto Morales and Foundation staff attorneys, Kaolin Farms employees have finally evicted one very stubborn union,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, Morales and his coworkers had to endure a lengthy legal process before their vote was finally upheld.”
“Workers shouldn’t have to jump through this many legal hoops to get rid of an unwanted union,” added Mix. “Pennsylvania needs to adopt a Right to Work law, which would ensure that no employee is forced to pay dues to an unwanted union just to keep a job. Such a law would prevent employees stuck with an unpopular union from being forced to pay dues to the very organization they are trying to remove.”