Obama Labor Board Bucks Precedent and Positions Itself to Weaken Worker-Backed Elections to Remove Unwanted Unions
Workers will challenge NLRB attempt to destroy their ballots in vote to oust union
Chehalis, WA (October 20, 2014) – Disregarding its own long-standing precedent, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued an order that continues the impoundment of Bradken, Inc. workers' ballots cast to determine whether the workers want to remove a local Machinist union from their workplace.
The NLRB's ruling endangers the results of an election initiated by Jonathan Fuller and his coworkers at the steel manufacturing facility to determine whether to remove the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District W24 union as their monopoly bargaining representative. Fuller is receiving free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
On August 16, 2013, IAM union officials filed federal charges against Bradken during a contract dispute. On August 30, 2013, Fuller and his coworkers filed a petition seeking a decertification election to determine their union representation. On April 23, 2014, an NLRB Regional Director approved an agreement between IAM and Bradken officials that settled the union's charges with no admission of liability by Bradken. On June 5, the Regional Director ruled based on long-standing NLRB precedent that the facility's approximately ninety-eight workers could vote in a decertification election, which was held on July 1 despite IAM union officials' objections.
However, IAM union officials asked the NLRB in Washington, DC to review the Regional Director's decision allowing the election, causing the NLRB to impound the workers' ballots. IAM union lawyers argue that the Board should overturn the precedent that permits workers' decertification elections when union unfair labor practice charges are settled without an employer admission of wrongdoing.
On October 10, a three-member panel of the Board issued a 2-1 order granting the IAM's request for review, thereby leaving impounded the workers’ ballots. By not counting the ballots the NLRB leaves the union in place even though a majority of workers may have voted it out over a year ago. The grant of review signals the NLRB majority's embrace of the union officials' position that the ballots should be destroyed and the vote ruled invalid even though there is no current Board precedent for doing so under these circumstances.
"Taking its cue from Machinist union bosses, the Obama NLRB is positioning itself to eliminate a longstanding worker right to remove an unwanted union from their workplace during a dispute between the union and their employer," said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "If the Board does so, it would not be the first time the Obama NLRB destroyed workers' ballots when they sought to determine their own union representation."
In 2011, the NLRB overturned earlier Foundation-won protections for workers challenging union recognition via card check unionization. As a result, workers must now wait up to three years after the date of the first bargaining agreement between their employer and union officials before they can petition for a secret ballot vote. In the wake of that ruling, hundreds of worker ballots were destroyed.