New Jersey Energy Workers Win Bid to Remove Unwanted Union
So-called ‘SMART’ Local 137 union officials disclaim representation rather than face a decertification vote of rank-and-file workers
Fairlawn, NJ (March 23, 2023) – Calmac Corp employee Carlos Flores and his coworkers have won their effort to free themselves of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (“SMART”) Local 137 union. The worker’s decertification effort recently became official when the SMART Local 137 union officials preemptively “disclaimed” interest in representing the Calmac Corp workers, rather than face a vote on whether to remove the union.
Flores, during the course of the decertification effort, received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys. The decertification petition, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), included the signatures of a significant portion of his coworkers.
The Calmac Corp employee petition was filed on March 7, 2023. The petition was quickly followed by a letter from union officials, disclaiming interest in “representing” Calmac Corp workers. Luckily for the Calmac workers, the entire decertification process was completed rather quickly. However, this is not always the case for many workers around the nation who are also working to remove overbearing unions.
For example, the NLRB’s union decertification process is prone to union boss-created roadblocks. That includes “blocking charges”, or charges union officials levy against employers in an attempt to postpone or de-legitimize decertification efforts. These charges often have little to no basis and are used specifically to delay decertification petitions.
Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 made it somewhat easier for workers to remove unwanted union officials, and made it harder for unions to file blocking charges. However, the Biden NLRB is attempting to roll back these protections and make it much more difficult to decertify a union.
Worker interest in removing unwanted unions is growing nationwide, with National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys fielding numerous requests for free legal assistance in decertification cases, with Flores and his coworkers just being one of these cases.
The NLRB’s own data show that, currently, a unionized private sector worker is more than twice as likely to be involved in a decertification effort as a nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.
“While we are extremely satisfied Calmac Corp workers were able to exercise their right to be union-free, had the 2020 Foundation-backed reforms to the NLRB not been in place this could have been a different story with union officials dragging out the process even though they clearly knew any vote would go against the union,” observed Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
“Should the Biden-appointed NLRB Members be successful in their goal to roll back these reforms, workers like those at Calmac Corp could face enormous hurdles in their decertification efforts and be trapped within union ranks for months or even years,” Mix continued.
Federal Charge: Union Official Threatened Violence Against Concrete Workers Seeking to Vote Out Union
Delaware GFP Mobile Mix Supply driver attacked for opposing the IUOE Local 542 Union
Wilmington, DE (March 20, 2023) – GFP Mobile Mix employee Tanner Bradigan has filed federal charges against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 542 after union officials threatened violent retribution against workers who refused to support the union and later led an effort to remove it. Bradigan and his coworkers are receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in this and a related case.
On March 8, 2023, Foundation attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for Bradigan against the union. In the charges, Bradigan stated that IUOE union officials threatened to physically attack every worker who opposed union control in a December union meeting.
According to the charge, some of the Mobile Mix workers, including Bradigan, went to the union meeting in an attempt to learn more about what union officials were claiming it could obtain for employees at the bargaining table. When they stated that they would not be supporting the union, IUOE union officials became aggressive and began screaming at Bradigan and his coworkers, threatening to fight anyone who refused to support the union.
Vance Pennington, Bradigan’s coworker, later submitted a petition on February 2 to the NLRB requesting a decertification election whether to formally remove the union from their workplace. Their petition included the signatures of more than the enough workers in the bargaining unit to trigger the decertification election.
Threatening opponents of the union with violence isn’t the only tactic IUOE union officials have deployed in their attempt to counter the decertification effort, however. IUOE officials have so far been able to stop the vote from taking place using so-called “blocking charges,” a commonly used union tactic meant to delay or shut down decertification petitions entirely.
Foundation staff attorneys recently responded to the union’s allegations by submitting five affidavits from Mobile Mix workers corroborating that the petition for dismissal was completely unrelated to the allegations in the union’s blocking charges against GFP Mobile Mix, but rather legitimate grievances, like the union official’s threats of violence.
The supply drivers at Mobile Mix are not the only workers who are attempting to remove an unwanted union. The NLRB’s own data show that, today, a unionized private sector worker is more than twice as likely to be involved in a decertification effort as a nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.
Unfortunately, the NLRB’s union decertification process is prone to Board-created roadblocks, with the Mobile Mix workers’ situation being just the latest example. However, Foundation-backed NLRB reforms from 2020 have made it somewhat easier for workers to remove unwanted union officials.
Without these Foundation-backed reforms, workers could have their decertification votes delayed virtually automatically by any unproven union blocking charges, giving union bosses the power to trap workers in union ranks they oppose nearly indefinitely. Under the Foundation-backed reforms most votes will take place promptly, with union blocking claims adjudicated later after the votes have been counted.
“The Foundation will not stop fighting for the workers of Mobile Mix regardless of the malicious union tactics at play in this case,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Workers should never fear retaliation from union bosses for exercising their rights—physical or otherwise.”
“The very fact that IUOE bosses will physically threaten workers who oppose them shows these workers have ample reason, independent of whatever claims union lawyers have made in blocking charges, for wanting to end this union’s so-called ‘representation,’” added Mix.
California Security Employee Appeals NLRB Discrimination Ruling Minimizing Blatantly Illegal Force Union Demands
Labor Board wrongly claimed illegal union membership threats against San Francisco Allied Universal employee were mere clerical errors
San Francisco, CA (March 17, 2023) – Allied Universal employee Thomas Ross filed an appeal after National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials tried to end his discrimination cases against his employer and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on the grounds that they are moot. Ross is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in his several cases against the union and employer.
On November 10, 2022, Thomas Ross hit union officials affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and his employer Allied Universal, with two sets of federal charges for forcing him to join and financially support the union after he told both parties his religious beliefs forbid union support. One set of charges was filed with the NLRB for violating his rights under federal labor law, and the other was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where the charges are still pending, for illegal religious discrimination under federal civil rights law.
California, where Ross is employed, lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, allowing union officials the power to force workers to pay them fees or be fired. In Right to Work states, in contrast, no worker can be fired for refusal to financially support a union.
However, under federal law, employees with religious objections cannot be compelled to pay union fees, even in non-Right to Work States. Further, under the National Labor Relations Act, which the NLRB is charged with enforcing, formal union membership cannot be mandatory, nor can dues be deducted from a worker’s paycheck without explicit authorization.
Despite this, Allied Universal demanded Ross join the union and also illegally seized dues from his paycheck without Ross’ consent, which it then sent to SEIU officials. After Ross filed the charges, Allied Universal refunded Ross’s illegally seized dues and claimed that the deduction was simply an “administrative error”. This led the NRLB to dismiss the case on the basis of the supposed “error” being resolved.
Foundation Attorneys and Ross have ample evidence to demonstrate the dues seizure was not a mere clerical error. In the appeal filed with the NLRB on March 13, 2023, Foundation attorneys highlighted that “it was established company policy that all employees are required to sign the checkoff and membership forms to work at Allied’s ‘union-only’ locations.”
The appeal also showcases several threats made to Ross by Allied Universal, even after receiving written notice of his religious objection. The correspondence in the case “show[s] employer agents reiterating several times that Mr. Ross must sign the membership forms in order to work at a ‘union site,’ or he can find a new job.”
“The Foundation is proud to assist Mr. Ross in his brave fight against religious discrimination and union boss coercion in his workplace,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Apparently at the behest of the SEIU, Allied Universal repeatedly and blatantly violated Mr. Ross’ legal rights. The NLRB should not sweep those under the rug as supposed ‘clerical errors’ because the clear violations of longstanding law financially benefitted union officials.”
“Additionally, it’s important to note that regardless of whether an individual employee’s objection to union affiliation and dues payment is religious in nature or not, ultimately no worker should be forced to pay dues to a union under threat of losing their livelihood,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation Opposes NLRB Push to Mandate Abusive ‘Card Check’ Unionization Process
Amicus brief in Starbucks case says NLRB General Counsel’s plan will expose workers to coercive union tactics and contradicts SCOTUS precedent
Washington, DC (March 16, 2023) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has just submitted an amicus brief at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in a case involving SEIU union organizers’ attempt to impose unionization on workers at Starbucks without a secret ballot vote. The Foundation’s brief, attached to the motion, defends workers at Starbucks and workplaces nationwide from Biden-appointed NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s attempt to effectively mandate coercive “card check” organizing campaigns.
In card check campaigns, professional union organizers can pressure workers into signing cards that are then used at “votes” for unionization in lieu of an NLRB-supervised secret ballot vote.
In the ongoing Starbucks case, former union lawyer Abruzzo is attempting to resurrect the long-discredited Joy Silk NLRB theory, which would force union monopoly control on workers who have not had an opportunity to vote in secret on whether they want a union in the workplace. SEIU officials attempted to impose union control on Starbucks baristas using the so-called “card check” process, in which union agents can bypass the traditional secret ballot method of gaining power in a workplace and can obtain union “authorization cards” directly from workers – often using coercive or misleading tactics.
Card check schemes are recognized by court and NLRB precedents and even AFL-CIO organizing handbooks as inaccurate gauges of true employee support for union control. Despite this, the Joy Silk theory that NLRB General Counsel Abruzzo seeks to revive forbids employers from challenging the results of a card check unionization.
Employers can contest the results of a card check by asking the NLRB to conduct a secret ballot union vote among the employees. Conversely, under Joy Silk, the NLRB has the power to force both workers and employers under union control if an employer objects to the results of a card check.
“Now, the General Counsel seeks to upend five decades of settled law to resurrect Joy Silk,” says the amicus brief. “She seeks a regime of instant unionization through compulsory bargaining orders issued to any employer that refuses to recognize a union based on authorization cards, even though such cards were most assuredly not collected through ‘laboratory conditions.’”
Joy Silk Prioritizes Union Power Over Employees’ Will and Conflicts with Court Precedent
The Foundation’s brief argues that card check unionization drives are “notoriously unreliable” for determining whether a majority of employees in a workplace want a union. Because card check schemes lack NLRB oversight and do not permit employees to vote in private, the brief argues, the door is open for union agents to deploy many kinds of pressure tactics, including soliciting ballots, electioneering, keeping lists of employees who have or have not signed cards, and more.
As opposed to employees in a secret ballot election who vote quickly and privately, “[t]his is not true for an employee caught in the maw of a year-long card check campaign, who may be solicited repeatedly and, perhaps coercively, month after month until he or she signs,” the brief says. If General Counsel Abruzzo brings back Joy Silk, that would allow union bosses to “bypass secret ballot elections at will and secure a compulsory bargaining order virtually anytime they are able to collect a bare majority of authorization cards.”
The amicus brief also maintains that the Joy Silk standard is at odds with a large number of court precedents, including from the D.C. Circuit Court (where many NLRB decisions are appealed), other circuit courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court twice. All of these courts have declared at one time or another that “authorization cards are inferior to secret ballot elections,” the brief says.
General Counsel Abruzzo Seeks to Compel Workers into Union Ranks Despite More Than 90% of American Workers Rejecting Unionization
“NLRB General Counsel Abruzzo – a former CWA union official – continues to show her extremist views when it comes to overturning precedent in the pursuit of greater coercive powers for her former colleagues in Big Labor’s upper echelon,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Inevitably, this comes at the expense of the rights of independent-minded American workers, who want the right to choose whether or not they wish to associate with a union, free from the well-documented coercive tactics union organizers deploy during card check drives.”
“Big Labor advocates previously at least understood that a sweeping change to federal labor law, like eliminating secret ballot elections to mandate ‘card check,’ would at least require an act of Congress,” Mix added. “But with the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill dying in 2010 due to bipartisan opposition, and the so-called ‘PRO-Act’ blocked in the last and current Congress, the Biden Administration is apparently moving forward to radically rewrite federal labor law by bureaucratic fiat.”
San Diego Gompers Preparatory Academy Educators Begin New Effort to Oust SDEA Union Bosses from School
Union bosses stymied last attempt with unproven allegations and pressure from elected officials, majority of teachers now back new effort
San Diego, CA (March 13, 2023) – Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in the Chollas View neighborhood of San Diego, have banded together again to exercise their right to vote San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses out of power at the school.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Gompers computer teacher Sean Bentz just submitted a petition to the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), requesting the agency hold a vote among his colleagues on whether to oust the union. The petition contains signatures of a majority of the teachers under the SDEA union’s control.
Bentz’s petition marks the second time in just over three years that Gompers educators have attempted to boot the SDEA union from the school. Gompers chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano submitted a decertification petition with Foundation legal aid in October 2019. Despite this petition also having the backing of the requisite number of teachers to spur a decertification vote, SDEA union bosses attempted to avert the election by filing so-called “blocking charges” containing allegations of employer misconduct.
Union officials often manipulate “blocking charges” at the PERB and other state and federal labor relations agencies to stifle worker attempts to eliminate unpopular union “representation.” Despite the PERB never holding a hearing into whether SDEA union bosses’ claims had any merit or whether they were related to the workers’ dissatisfaction with the union, PERB officials denied a decertification election to Chiscano and her colleagues in October 2020.
State Labor Agency’s Rule Aided Union in Blocking Vote
Chiscano’s case defending the first petition to remove SDEA union agents from the school also sought to overturn PERB Regulation 32752, which requires PERB agents and attorneys to accept union bosses’ “blocking charge” allegations as true – a stipulation almost guaranteeing union defeat of any worker attempt to vote a union out.
The initial union decertification effort took place not long after SDEA officials gained power at the school in January 2019 via “card check,” a process that bypasses the traditional secret-ballot vote system to install a union. Gompers made an impressive transition to being a union-free charter school in 2005 after years of being plagued by unresponsive union bureaucracies, violence, and poor academic achievement, so many teachers and parents viewed the reinstallation of union power at the school with suspicion. Some accused SDEA agents of actively sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation and needlessly disparaging the school’s leadership.
“I chose to work at a school that didn’t have a union and now they’ve come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work,” Chiscano said at the time.
Union Agents Targeted Teachers Who Led Effort to Vote Out Union
Even worse, shortly after the PERB’s ruling halting the original decertification effort, Chiscano and another Gompers educator filed charges maintaining that SDEA agents targeted them on social media for opposing the union hierarchy. California law makes it illegal for union officials to intimidate or retaliate against employees who exercise their right to refrain from union membership.
Union boss-aligned state legislators even chimed in to pressure Gompers management to give in to union demands. In a letter to Gompers management, then-Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez attacked the National Right to Work Foundation simply for providing legal aid to Gompers educators as they sought to exercise their right to hold a decertification election. Gonzalez was best known during her tenure for authoring AB5, a California law that drastically reduced opportunities for freelance workers and independent contractors across the state.
Teachers’ Union Decertification Efforts Expose Massive Power of California Public Sector Unions
Sean Bentz filed the new decertification petition renewing the fight to oust the union at the earliest time permitted by California labor regulations, which immunize union officials from employee-led decertification efforts for all but a tiny window while union contracts are active. But the new decertification attempt will likely face the same roadblocks of “blocking charges” as the old one.
“The new decertification effort at Gompers Preparatory Academy pits concerned educators against California’s most entrenched special interest – public sector union bosses,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “In their last endeavor, Gompers teachers, who simply wanted to exercise their right to vote on whether SDEA union bosses deserved to remain in power, faced specious allegations meant to block the vote, union attacks on social media, and even pressure from union-label politicians.”
“Foundation attorneys will proudly fight alongside Gompers teachers to vindicate their rights, but ultimately this effort should expose how California’s labor laws prioritize union bosses’ desire for control over schools and other public services far above the rights of the employees who provide these services,” Mix added.
Pipefitters Union Hit with Federal Charge for Illegal Retaliatory Fine against Non-Union Las Vegas Worker
Las Vegas, NV (March 10, 2022) – An employee in Las Vegas, Nevada, has filed federal charges against the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA) union Local 525, in response to union officials illegally threatening to fine him. The employee, David Webb, chose to exercise his right to work during a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-sanctioned election. The case was filed at the National Labor Relations Board Region 28 by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to challenge his retaliatory fines by the union officials.
Webb, a Universal Plumbing and Heating Inc. employee, has not been a union member since 2017. Despite this, UA union officials initiated internal union disciplinary charges against him, resulting in an attempt to levy a fine of $4,999 against him for exercising his right to participate in a NLRB-sanctioned election, including as an official election observer.
Although union bosses often initiate internal union discipline against voluntary union members, longstanding precedent protects workers who are not union members from being subjected to such retaliatory fines. Further, workers can never legally be fined by union officials for exercising their protected rights under federal labor law, including participating in an NLRB-supervised election to decide whether or not union officials become the monopoly bargaining “representative” of workers in a given workplace.
Nevada is a Right to Work state, meaning workers cannot legally be required to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, even in Right to Work states, union officials who have obtained monopoly bargaining control in a workplace are granted the power to impose one-size-fits-all union contracts on all workers, including those who opt out of union membership and would prefer to negotiate their own terms of employment. In the election that triggered the illegal retaliatory fine against Webb, workers voted against granting UA union bosses such monopoly bargaining powers.
“Fining a nonmember worker for poll-watching is not only absurd but blatantly illegal,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “If UA union bosses want to know why workers are declining formal union membership and also voting against bringing so-called union ‘representation’ into their workplace, they should look at their own conduct and how they abuse the rights of rank-and-file workers.”
“Other workers nationwide facing similar backlash from union officials should know they can reach out to Foundation staff attorneys for free legal assistance in challenging union bosses,” added Mix.
California Trucking Company Workers Win Freedom from Unwanted Teamsters Local 665 Union Officials
Rather than face vote to strip union officials of their forced representation powers, Teamsters officials concede defeat
Santa Rosa, CA (March 9, 2023) – Valdivia Trucking Co. workers in California are finally free of unwanted Teamsters Local 665 union officials after three months of delays created by the union officials. The workers’ bid to remove the union recently became official when, rather than face a decertification vote of Valdivia workers whether to strip the union of its power, the union preemptively “disclaimed” interest in representation and walked away from the workers.
Valdivia Trucking worker John Murdick received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation while filing for a decertification vote. His decertification petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) included the signatures of a significant majority of the workers at the facility.
The workers’ petition was filed on December 16, 2022, and quickly resulted in a stipulated election agreement for a decertification vote on January 6. However, the vote was delayed by preexisting “blocking charges” the union filed with the NLRB. This is a union tactic often used to delay workers’ decertification elections, because union officials fear if the vote goes forward the union may lose.
As a result of these blocking charges against the employer the vote was delayed three months, until March, when the blocking charges were finally closed. This permitted the vote to proceed. It was at that point the union officials notified the company’s lawyers and the NLRB that it disclaimed interest in “representing” the Valdivia Trucking employees. That gave the workers the outcome they sought, albeit delayed by nearly three months.
The NLRB’s union decertification process is prone to union boss-created roadblocks. Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 made it somewhat easier for workers to remove unwanted union officials. However, the Biden NLRB is attempting to roll back these protections and make it much harder to decertify a union.
For example, the 2020 reforms blocked union officials from resubmitting overlapping charges, which often contain unverified and unrelated allegations of employer actions, designed to delay the process further. Had these reforms not been in place, the three-month delay for these workers could have been extended indefinitely.
Worker interest in removing unwanted unions is growing nationwide, with National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys fielding numerous requests for free legal assistance in decertification cases, like the one brought by Murdick and his coworkers.
The process to decertify a union should be simple. Federal law provides that workers can hold decertification votes in most instances as long as they have a petition with the signatures of at least 30% of workers in a bargaining unit. However, rules created by NLRB bureaucrats combined with legal tactics deployed by union lawyers often mean workers face legal hurdles in just getting the opportunity to hold a vote whether to remove an unwanted union.
The NLRB’s own data show that, currently, a unionized private sector worker is more than twice as likely to be involved in a decertification effort as a nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.
“The Valdivia Trucking decertification situation shows how union officials often use underhanded tactics to remain in power and collect dues from hard-working people as long as possible, even though they know a majority of workers oppose their so-called representation,” observed Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
“Although we are extremely satisfied that the Valdivia workers have exercised their legal right to be union-free, we cannot neglect the importance the 2020 Foundation-backed reforms played in this case,” Mix continues. “If the Biden-appointed NLRB is able to roll back these reforms, as they are attempting to do, workers like those at Valdivia may be trapped in union ranks they oppose for many months and even years.”