Buffalo Starbucks Baristas Blast National Labor Relations Board’s Move to Trap Workers in Union at Court of Appeals
NLRB lawyers claim workers’ opposition to union “justifies” union being imposed on unwilling employees
Buffalo, NY (November 28, 2023) – Ariana Cortes and Logan Karam, Starbucks partners in the Buffalo area, have just filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals case Leslie v. Starbucks Corp. In the case, NLRB officials are attempting to prosecute Starbucks for misconduct alleged by SEIU-affiliated Workers United union officials. The NLRB cites a petition that Cortes and her coworkers filed seeking a vote to remove the union as a reason why Starbucks management should be subjected to a court-ordered injunction.
Cortes and Karam, who are represented for free by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, challenge this legal maneuver in their brief. The employee’s brief argues that the NLRB’s strategy treats workers as if they have no agency of their own and have no independent reasons for wanting to get rid of a union.
“Given the biases of the current Board, it is disheartening ― but not surprising ― to see the NLRB claim Cortes’ petition is the product of Starbucks’ alleged unfair labor practices,” the brief states. “Its own records show that nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Cortes collected her petition because of the Union’s anti-employee behavior.”
The employees’ brief also contends that the relief NLRB lawyers are seeking from the Second Circuit – a 10(j) injunction under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that will force Starbucks managers into working with SBWU union bosses to craft a monopoly bargaining contract – is extreme. Such injunctions can only be ordered when the harm done to workers in their absence would be “irreparable.” Foundation attorneys argue that the fact that Cortes and other employees have attempted to decertify does not make any injuries suffered by the union “irreparable.”
“The NLRB’s argument it needs an injunction to suppress decertification efforts already underway―which have already garnered majority support―is a tacit admission it is seeking to alter the status quo, not preserve it,” states the brief.
Cortes is also receiving Foundation legal aid in a case challenging the constitutionality of the NLRB’s structure. That case, currently pending at the D.C. District Court, argues that the structure of the NLRB is unconstitutional.
Dangerous Precedent Set If Court Grants Anti-Worker Injunction
If the Second Circuit grants the NLRB’s request for an injunction on behalf of SBWU union bosses, it would be the first time that a federal court has ordered a Starbucks store to engage in bargaining with union bosses on the basis of an employee’s decertification petition. This would be a horrendous precedent for independent-minded Starbucks workers across the country.
Starbucks workers all across the country have submitted decertification petitions seeking votes to remove SBWU union bosses, including at least nine groups of employees who are utilizing free Foundation legal aid. The NLRB would be able to use the federal court precedent to make the dubious argument that union bargaining should be mandated simply because employees want a chance to oust the union.
“The NLRB is digging an even deeper grave for employees trying to exercise their rights to remove an unwanted union from their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Board’s attempt to twist employees’ desire to exercise their right to throw out a union into a reason to force a union upon them is a new low.”
“Ariana Cortes and Logan Karam are taking a courageous stand to ensure their coworkers aren’t disenfranchised and trapped under a union hierarchy they oppose, and we’re proud to support them,” Mix added.
Performer’s petition contains support from majority of employees at Buena Park location; National Labor Relations Board will now review
Los Angeles, CA (November 27, 2023) – Michelle Dean, a performer at dinner theater concept Medieval Times’ Buena Park location, today filed a petition at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting a vote to remove American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) union officials from power at her workplace. Her petition, which she filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, contains the signatures of a majority of her fellow performers at the “castle.”
The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal labor law, which includes administering elections to install (or “certify”) and remove (or “decertify”) unions. Under NLRB rules, a union decertification petition must contain the signatures of 30 percent or more of the employees at a workplace to trigger a decertification election. If a majority of employees vote against the union, it is removed from the workplace.
Because California lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, AGVA union bosses have the power to enter into contracts with Medieval Times management that force Dean and her coworkers to pay union dues or fees just to keep their jobs. In contrast, in Right to Work states like neighboring Nevada and Arizona, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
However, in both non-Right to Work states and Right to Work states, union bosses have the power over the work conditions of every employee in a unionized workplace, including those who don’t support or voted against the union. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of that monopoly bargaining power.
AGVA Officials Abruptly End Strike Order Just Ahead of Decertification Effort
Just last week, AGVA union officials unconditionally called off a long-running strike order at the Buena Park Medieval Times, meaning a number of employees will return to work after being ordered off the job for roughly nine months. Protracted and divisive strike orders are often a factor workers cite as reasons to send union officials packing.
The performers at the Buena Park Medieval Times are the second group of Medieval Times workers that Foundation staff attorneys are aiding in removing the AGVA union. Lyndhurst, NJ, Medieval Times employee Artemesia Morley submitted a decertification petition earlier this year that also contained signatures from a majority of her coworkers, but NLRB Region 22 in Newark, NJ, blocked the petition based on unproven charges of misconduct AGVA made against Medieval Times management. Foundation attorneys are now defending Morley’s petition before the NLRB in Washington, DC; Morley’s Request for Review notes that AGVA union officials were “secretive, self-interested, and divisive,” and “regularly advocated that the [Medieval Times] employees go on strike, something that had no support among the unit employees.”
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the AGVA union’s reign over Medieval Times performers resembles a ruthless tyrant more interested in promoting union bosses’ power than what is best for rank-and-file employees,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “If AGVA union bosses really do have the support they claim they do among Medieval Times employees, they should simply let them exercise their right to vote as opposed to engaging in legal maneuvers to stop it from happening.”
Employee Advocate Blasts Proposed Labor Department Rule Rigging Visa Program in Favor of Union Organizers
National Right to Work Foundation Comments: DOL lacks authority to enforce pro-union boss regulation over temporary agricultural workers
Washington, DC (November 21, 2023) – The National Right to Work Foundation has submitted comments with the Department of Labor opposing the agency’s slated rule misleadingly titled “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States.” The comments explain that the agency is trying to impose portions of federal labor law favorable to union bosses on temporary agricultural employees, who are under the jurisdiction of state labor laws. The comments argue this agency action defies federal law and is without Congressional authorization.
The proposed rule would assist union bosses with imposing monopoly union representation on swaths of temporary agricultural workers in the United States, including workers who don’t support a union. Among other things, the rule requires that employers fork over employee contact information at union bosses’ request – regardless of whether the union has any employee support. The proposed rule would also cajole employers to enter into so-called “neutrality agreements” with union bosses. “Neutrality agreements” typically require employers to censor information about the union and provide other aid to union bosses in their efforts to collectivize workers.
The comments cite multiple reasons as to why the Department of Labor lacks the legal authority to implement the proposed rule, such as the fact that Congress expressly excluded agricultural workers from federal labor statutes.
“In its notice of proposed rulemaking, the Department admits that it is effectively imposing portions of the National Labor Relations Act (‘NLRA’) on employees that Congress specifically exempted from the NLRA’s terms,” the comments state. “The Department not only lacks Congressional authorization to take this action, it is defying express Congressional intent to not subject these types of employees to provisions of the NLRA.”
DOL Rule Provisions Grant More Power to Union Officials, Don’t Help Workers
The comments also point out that the provisions in the Department of Labor’s rule are unrelated to the rule’s stated purpose of helping agricultural workers avoid exploitation, and rather resemble a list of proposals to empower union officials at workers’ expense.
“The Department fails to explain how allowing unions to access employees’ personal information, to bargain for neutrality agreements, and to prevent employees from accessing information for and against unionization helps to alleviate the concerns identified in the proposed regulations,” the comments argue.
“The Department should not adopt the proposed regulation,” the comments conclude.
Foundation Steps in as Biden Administration Works to Expand Union Control in All Sectors
Foundation attorneys have a track record of providing free legal aid to farmworkers who want to free themselves from the control of union bosses. In 2016, Foundation staff attorneys won a decision upholding Pennsylvania-based Kaolin Mushroom Farms employees’ decisive vote to remove union bosses who had argued in favor of maintaining a seven-year restriction on the workers’ right to vote. Foundation attorneys have also filed amicus briefs in recent years defending California and North Carolina agricultural employees’ Right to Work in various cases.
The Department of Labor’s notice of rulemaking on temporary farmworkers comes as the Biden Administration is making a full court press to expand union boss legal privileges across the country. The Biden National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently in rulemaking devising regulations that will make it more difficult for American private sector workers to exercise their right to remove unwanted unions, while giving union officials more tools to gain power in a workplace without even a vote.
“Despite the Department of Labor’s claims, the true underhanded goal of this rule is clear: handing union bosses more power to corral workers into union ranks, while cutting back on workers’ privacy and rights to resist unwanted unionization,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Temporary agricultural workers should not be used as pawns to expand union bosses’ sphere of control into the agricultural sector. But that’s exactly what the Biden Department of Labor is attempting, in direct contradiction to the choice made by Congress not to subject such workers to federally-imposed monopoly unionism.”
Overwhelming Majority of Bethlehem, PA, Hygrade Metal Workers Vote to Remove Steelworkers Union Bosses
With landslide 15-3 vote against union, Hygrade workers join other PA-based metal workers who ousted the Steelworkers union this year
Bethlehem, PA (November 10, 2023) – Metal workers at Hygrade Metal Moulding Manufacturing, a Bethlehem-based metal fabricator, have voted 15-3 to remove unpopular Steelworkers union officials from their facility. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held the election on November 9 at Hygrade’s headquarters. Following the NLRB’s certification of the vote, the Steelworkers union will lose its monopoly bargaining control over the Bethlehem facility.
The election follows Hygrade employee Michael Soto’s submission of a majority petition last month asking the NLRB to conduct an election to oust the union – also known as a “decertification vote” – at his workplace. He received free legal aid in submitting his petition from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Because Pennsylvania lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, Steelworkers union officials entered into agreements that forced Soto and his coworkers to pay union dues just to keep their jobs. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary. However, in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work states, union officials can impose their monopoly bargaining powers over every employee in a work unit, even those who voted against the union or oppose its presence. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of this privilege.
“Steelworkers union officials didn’t stand up for our interests, yet they still had control over our workplace and were taking our dues money,” commented Soto. “My coworkers threw big support behind the petition, and now we have freed ourselves from the Steelworkers, as is our right under federal law.”
Steelworkers Already Faced Overwhelming Rejection by NW Pennsylvania Metal Workers Earlier This Year
Soto and his coworkers’ Foundation-backed election victory is the second rejection that Pennsylvania Steelworkers union officials have had to face this year. In January, Latrobe Specialty Metals workers in Venango County, PA, successfully booted out Steelworkers union officials who tried to ratify an unpopular contract with the employer behind the workers’ backs. The maneuver was meant to manipulate a non-statutory NLRB policy known as the “contract bar” to keep the union in power despite workers’ vote to remove it. The NLRB eventually rejected this gambit, and other union objections to the election result didn’t succeed. The Latrobe Specialty Metals workers were then free of the unwanted union.
Biden NLRB Putting More Restrictions on Workers’ Right to Remove Unions
Soto and his coworkers’ victory comes as the Biden NLRB in Washington, D.C., is attempting to make it more difficult for workers to exercise their right to remove unwanted unions, while giving union officials more tools to gain power in a workplace without even a vote. The NLRB is expected to soon issue a final rule overturning the Election Protection Rule, a Foundation-backed 2020 reform which made commonsense improvements to the decertification process.
The Biden NLRB’s proposed rule, among other things, will give union bosses the power to use “blocking charges,” or unproven allegations of employer misconduct, to prevent workers from voting to decertify a union. The proposed rule will also strip workers of the ability to file for a secret ballot election after a union installs itself via “card check,” a coercive process that bypasses the NLRB’s standard election process and instead permits union bosses to collect cards from workers (often through strong-arm tactics) that are counted as “votes” for the union.
“National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are proud to help workers exercise their free choice rights and vote out union officials that don’t serve their interests,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While we’re happy that Mr. Soto and his coworkers have ousted a union they don’t want, that right is at risk as the Biden Administration is charging forward on giving its union boss political allies more tools to maintain their forced-representation and forced-dues powers over workers – just ahead of the 2024 election.”
Union already voted out by Good Karma Café workers, now union bosses may face second rejection by Philly employees in just months
Philadelphia, PA (November 9, 2023) – An employee of Starbucks at 600 S. 9th St. in Philadelphia filed a petition with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 4, asking the federal agency to hold a vote at his workplace to remove (or “decertify”) the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union. The employee, Michael Simonelli, is now receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in defending his petition.
Simonelli’s petition contains signatures from a majority of employees at his workplace, more than enough to trigger a vote under NLRB rules. Because Pennsylvania lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, SBWU union bosses can compel Simonelli and his coworkers to pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
However, in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work states, union officials in a unionized workplace are empowered by federal law to impose a union contract on all employees in a work unit, including those who oppose the union. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of that power.
SBWU May Face Second Rejection in Philly as Worker Attempts to Oust Unions Increase Nationwide
Simonelli and his colleagues join Starbucks workers and other coffee employees across the country in banding together to vote out SBWU union officials. This year, Starbucks employees in Manhattan, NY; two Buffalo, NY locations; Pittsburgh, PA; Bloomington, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Greenville, SC; and Oklahoma City, OK, have all sought free Foundation legal aid in filing or defending decertification petitions at the NLRB. In Philadelphia, workers at Good Karma Café, an independent coffee shop in Philadelphia, successfully voted out the SBWU union in September with Foundation help.
This growing wave of decertification attempts is occurring after SBWU union agents engaged in a multi-year, aggressive unionization campaign against Starbucks employees. As part of the campaign, SBWU spent over $2 million to target the coffee chain with paid union agents – including “salts” who obtained jobs at Starbucks locations with the covert mission of installing union power. After achieving this goal, many “salts” abandoned the stores.
Many workers targeted by this campaign are demanding decertification votes roughly one year after an SBWU union was installed at their store, which is the earliest possible opportunity afforded by federal law to do so.
Outside of Starbucks, union decertification efforts are becoming much more common. Currently, the NLRB’s data shows two consecutive years of increased decertification efforts, with a nearly 30% increase in decertification petitions last year versus 2021.
SBWU Union Officials Doubling-Down on Legal Strategy to Squash Worker Votes
However, union officials have many ways to manipulate federal labor law to prevent workers from voting them out, including by filing unrelated or unverified charges against management. Currently, SBWU union officials are attempting to block Starbucks workers nationwide from exercising their right to decertify the union by filing unproven charges.
“SBWU union officials spent big to expand their monopoly bargaining power over Starbucks. Now that they’re witnessing workers resist the union’s agenda and so-called ‘representation,’ they’re manipulating every legal privilege they have to try to stay in power,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “In doing so, of course, they’re turning the workers they claim to speak for into prisoners of the union, and trampling their free choice rights.”
“SBWU union bosses may fear that Mr. Simonelli and his coworkers will force them to relive the same kind of rejection they faced at Good Karma Café locations just across Philadelphia, but we at the Foundation will continue to defend his and his coworkers’ rights until their voices are heard at the ballot box,” Mix added.
Piscataway L’Oreal Employee Says RWDSU Union Boss Threats and Misinformation Undermined Vote to Oust Union
Worker’s objections to election assert that union bosses threatened employees critical of union and sowed racial division; new election sought
Piscataway, NJ (November 6, 2023) – Ana Maria Hoyos Lopez, an employee of L’Oreal USA Products, is asking for a rerun election based on charges that Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU-UFCW) Local 262 officials interfered in a vote she and her coworkers requested to remove the union. In election objections filed with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 22 in Newark, Hoyos Lopez maintains that union officials threatened workers who voiced objections to union officials’ performance, misrepresented facts about the employer’s healthcare plans, used racially-charged tactics, and perpetrated other coercive conduct in the weeks leading up to the election.
Hoyos Lopez is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. In September, also with Foundation aid, she filed a petition which contained enough signatures from her coworkers to prompt the NLRB to hold a vote to remove the union (a “decertification election”) at her workplace. The vote took place at L’Oreal USA’s Piscataway facility through October 19 and October 20.
Objections Assert RWDSU Union Officials Yelled at, Chased Employees Who Expressed Concerns with Union, Made Racial Appeals
Hoyos Lopez’s objections focus on a September 22 meeting that union bosses held to push workers to vote for the union. According to the filing, during the meeting, Hoyos Lopez and some other employees brought up problems with the union’s performance, including lack of communication between the employees and union officials, and the poor quality of the union contract. In response, “[t]he pro-decertification employees were yelled down, the president of the Union shouted expletives at them in a threatening and coercive manner, and union officials demanded that they leave the meeting.”
During the same meeting, the objections state, Hoyos Lopez attempted to film the threatening actions of union officials, but a union official accosted her further and “proceeded to chase after Petitioner despite the fact that she had already left the pavilion” at the public park the meeting was occurring at.
“Outside the pavilion [a union official] demanded that Petitioner leave the park entirely, and threatened to call the cops on her if they did not comply,” the objections state. During the same meeting, union officials also asked Hoyos Lopez to withdraw her petition or asked other employees to request she do so.
Hoyos Lopez also asserts in the objections that, in the weeks leading up to the election, union officials “misrepresented the difference in health insurance policies offered by the Union compared to those offered by the Employer,” interfered with the laboratory conditions of the election by speaking to employees as they were in line to vote, and sent text messages that “intrusively asked employees on which day they would be voting.”
The final objection states that RWDSU-UFCW bosses engaged in racial tactics to swing the vote in favor of the union. Union officials told employees that white managers in the U.S. are racist and don’t want to promote Hispanics, and that employees “should vote for the Union to defend their rights.”
“This appeal to racial and ethnic prejudice is coercive and despicable, and is grounds to set aside the election,” the objections conclude.
As RWDSU Union Bosses Shut Down Employee Vote, Biden NLRB Seeks Less Worker Freedom
Hoyos Lopez’s objections will now be investigated and a rerun election will occur if the NLRB determines union officials’ actions were objectionable and interfered with employees’ free choice in the election.
“If RWDSU union officials truly believed they would win an election among L’Oreal employees, they would not engage in such acts of coercion, including threatening the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ misrepresenting facts prior to the vote, and shamelessly sowing division,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We will continue to fight for Ms. Hoyos Lopez and her coworkers to get a fair opportunity to freely choose whether RWDSU bosses should remain in their workplace.”
“Unfortunately, instead of beefing up protections on worker-requested elections, the Biden NLRB is seeking big policy changes that will make it easier for union officials to gain power without a vote,” added Mix.
Work unit spans several states; union bosses disclaimed interest after Winchester, VA-based worker submitted enough employee signatures for ouster vote
Winchester, VA (October 30, 2023) – Employees of tire wholesaler Max Finkelstein from Virginia to Maine have successfully freed themselves from the control of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) officials. The worker victory comes after Winchester, VA-based Max Finkelstein truck driver Christopher Dorney submitted a petition on behalf of his coworkers asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a vote to remove the union. Dorney received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing private sector labor law and administering elections to install or remove unions. By NLRB rules, Dorney’s petition contained enough signatures from his colleagues across several states to prompt a union decertification vote.
Because the work unit spans multiple states, the RWDSU union exercised varying amounts of power over Dorney and his coworkers. In states that lack Right to Work protections, such as Maine, New York, and Maryland, RWDSU union officials could enforce agreements with Max Finkelstein management that required workers to pay union dues simply to keep their jobs. In Right to Work states like Virginia, in contrast, union dues payment and union membership are strictly voluntary. However, federal law gives union officials in all states the power to impose their “representation” over every worker in a unionized workplace, even those who are not union members or oppose the union’s agenda.
However, late last week RWDSU officials announced they were departing the work unit, possibly to avoid an embarrassing rejection by workers at the ballot box.
“We warehouse workers and drivers at Max Finkelstein may be from many different facilities in many different states, but we are in agreement about one thing: RWDSU union officials don’t represent our interests,” commented Dorney. “It’s our right under federal law to challenge RWDSU’s forced representation power.”
RWDSU Faces Another Setback as Employees Increasingly Oppose Unions
The RWDSU union has recently tried several high-profile unionization campaigns at Amazon warehouses across the country, most notably at the large Bessemer, AL, facility, where employees voted against the union by substantial margins in both 2021 and 2022. Gallup polling shows that 58 percent of nonunion workers are “not interested at all” in joining a union.
Workers currently under union control are also increasingly seeking to obtain votes to free themselves, often with Foundation aid. Currently, the NLRB’s data shows a unionized private sector worker is far more likely to be involved in a decertification effort than their nonunion counterpart is to be involved in a unionization campaign. NLRB statistics also show a 20% increase in decertification petitions last year versus 2021.
Biden Labor Board Seeks to Stifle Workers’ Right to Vote Out Unwanted Unions
Dorney and his coworkers’ effort comes as the Biden NLRB in Washington, D.C., is attempting to make it more difficult for workers to exercise their right to remove unwanted unions, while giving union officials more tools to gain power in a workplace without even a vote. The NLRB is expected to soon issue a final rule overturning the Election Protection Rule, a Foundation-backed 2020 reform which made commonsense improvements to the decertification process.
The Biden NLRB’s proposed rule, among other things, will give union bosses the power to use “blocking charges,” or unproven allegations of employer misconduct, to prevent workers from voting to decertify a union. The rule will also strip workers of the ability to file for a secret ballot election after a union installs itself via “card check,” a coercive process that bypasses the NLRB’s standard election process and instead permits union bosses to collect cards from workers (often through strong-arm tactics) that are later counted as “votes” for the union.
“Mr. Dorney and his coworkers’ effort to kick out the RWDSU union, which spanned several states, at least 15 facilities, and hundreds of workers, is yet another example that workers often want to escape union officials’ one-size-fits-all agenda. It’s also a demonstration that workers will go to great lengths in order to exercise this right,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “But the Biden NLRB, bent on empowering the President’s union boss political allies, plans to grant unions even more power to defeat workers’ will.”