Lexington-Area Leggett & Platt Employees Officially Free from Unpopular IAM Union after Six-Year Legal Battle
Employee submitted majority-backed petition seeking ouster of union in accordance with federal Labor Board standards, but IAM officials fought it for years
Lexington, KY (October 7, 2022) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Keith Purvis and his coworkers at furniture manufacturer Leggett & Platt have finally formally freed themselves from the control of unwanted International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials. Purvis and his coworkers have been fighting since 2016 to exercise their right to remove the union.
The victory comes after a DC Circuit Court decision reversed the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and found that, under the Foundation-won Johnson Controls case, NLRB bureaucrats had arbitrarily allowed IAM union bosses to remain in power at the facility despite a petition showing a majority of workers wanted them gone. Following that DC Circuit decision, the NLRB finally confirmed that IAM union officials are no longer the bargaining “representatives” at Purvis’ workplace.
In the 2019 Johnson Controls decision, the NLRB established an employer’s power to cease recognition of a union in a workplace once the current monopoly bargaining agreement expires, provided employees have submitted a petition indicating the majority of them do not wish to be “represented” by the union. If union officials dispute their loss of majority support, the issue is resolved by a secret-ballot election among workers on whether the union should remain in power.
The Johnson Controls process is a marked improvement over the old standard, in which union officials could unilaterally invalidate a petition showing the majority of workers rejected the union by submitting “union cards” or other documentation purportedly showing the union had regained majority status. Before Johnson Controls, secret-ballot elections were generally not conducted to resolve these disputes, despite courts affirming that such elections are the best gauge of employee approval.
Even After Two Petitions for Union’s Ouster, Union Bosses Tried to Force Themselves Back into Facility
In 2016, Purvis submitted to Leggett & Platt management the first of two “decertification petitions,” which demonstrated a majority of his coworkers wanted the union removed from the facility. In response, his employer announced that it would stop recognizing IAM union officials on March 1, 2017. However, IAM union bosses filed charges with the NLRB immediately after, alleging that Leggett & Platt management’s withdrawal of recognition at employees’ behest was unlawful. Undeterred, Purvis gathered signatures for and submitted a second decertification petition, this time seeking a secret-ballot election conducted by the NLRB.
While litigation over union officials’ charges was pending before the DC Circuit Court in 2019, the NLRB issued the Johnson Controls decision. The DC Circuit Court sent the case back to the NLRB, ostensibly because Johnson Controls meant Leggett & Platt had acted lawfully by anticipatorily withdrawing recognition from the union when presented with a majority of employee signatures seeking that outcome.
The NLRB refused to apply the Johnson Controls standard to the case, but, when the case came before the DC Circuit Court again on appeal, the DC Circuit ruled that the NLRB’s refusal to do so was “arbitrary and capricious.” Finally, as September 2022 ended, the NLRB issued a decision confirming the IAM was no longer the majority representative, and IAM officials could not use litigation to foist monopoly bargaining power over the facility.
American Workers Increasingly Giving Boot to Unpopular Unions
Purvis and his coworkers’ successful exercise of their right to boot the unpopular IAM bosses comes as private sector workers across the country are increasingly moving to get rid of union officials that don’t serve their interests. 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 the average nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.
“No worker in America should be subjected to union control that they oppose, and the Foundation-won Johnson Controls NLRB decision safeguards a vital pathway for workers to exercise their free choice rights in that regard,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, as was the case with Mr. Purvis’ effort, union bosses and Big Labor allies at the NLRB continuously try to pare back this decision so union officials can maintain their grip on workplaces even when it’s obvious workers want them gone.”
“We’re glad Mr. Purvis and his coworkers are finally free of the union and we were proud to assist him,” Mix added.
Federal labor board data show that workers across the country are increasingly likely to be involved in efforts to remove unions from workplaces
Sacramento, CA (September 23, 2022) – Seron Chand and her fellow nurses at Pine Creek Care Center, a Roseville nursing and rehabilitation facility, successfully exercised their right to vote unwanted Teamsters Local 150 union bosses out of their workplace. Chand obtained free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, who aided her in filing a petition asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct a vote to remove the union (also known as a “decertification vote”).
The NLRB’s election certification showed more than 70% of the nurses voted to scrap the union. The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing private sector labor law, which includes holding employee votes to either remove or install a union in a workplace.
Chand and her colleagues benefitted from Foundation-backed reforms adopted by the NLRB in 2020, which make it easier for workers to exercise their right to boot unwanted union officials. Before the reforms, union officials could stop workers who had requested a decertification vote from casting a single ballot by filing so-called “blocking charges,” which often contain unverified and unrelated allegations of employer misconduct. The rule changes improved the process so employees can at least have a chance to vote before any allegations surrounding the election are handled.
Because California lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, Chand and her fellow nurses were forced not only to accept the so-called “representation” of the clearly unpopular Teamsters union, but were required to subsidize union activities financially just to keep their jobs. In Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
Pine Creek Nurses Join Nurses Across the Country Who Have Cut Ties with Unpopular Unions
Just a month before Chand and her colleagues’ successful decertification vote, Foundation attorneys aided nurses at Mayo Clinic in Mankato, Minnesota, in their successful effort to throw out the unpopular Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union from their workplace. About the same time, nurses from the St. James, Minnesota, branch of Mayo Clinic voted to decertify American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 65 union officials by a nearly 9-to-1 margin, also with Foundation legal assistance.
In California, Foundation-backed nurses at Monterey’s Cypress Ridge Care Center voted to remove Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 officials a few months ago.
The increase in efforts by workers to free themselves from unions they do not want is not limited to nurses. 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 the average nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.
“Big Labor is claiming that worker support for unions is soaring – a narrative that they will use ahead of midterm elections to convince their political allies to grant them even more coercive legal powers over rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, the NLRB’s own stats concerning unionization, as well as a spike in workers seeking Foundation aid in kicking out unwanted union officials, show that the real story is that workers are rejecting the increasingly politicized and coercive ‘representation’ today’s union officials are offering.”
NLRB reverses itself after wrongly undercounting number of technical employees seeking vote to remove union
Minneapolis, MN (September 21, 2022) – A vote to remove union representation at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will move forward after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 reversed itself and admitted to undercounting workers’ signatures in support of removing the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) from their workplace. National Right to Work staff attorneys filed a Request for Review on August 24, 2022, pointing out that the Region clearly miscounted the number of valid signatures on a union decertification petition. Now that the NLRB has acknowledged its mistake, a new pre-election hearing date is scheduled for later this month.
Employee Laurie Murphy filed the decertification petition for CRMC Unit II technical employees, which includes employees in the laboratory, respiratory therapy, physical therapy and radiology departments, plus licensed practical nurses, engineers, certified occupational therapy assistants, pharmacy technicians, and accredited records technicians.
“CRMC employees would like to work for an organization that doesn’t have to run everything through the union. CRMC is a great company to work for and they care about all of their employees,” Ms. Murphy said in a statement explaining the widespread support among her Cuyuna Regional Medical Center colleagues for removing the SEIU.
“In my opinion, all they are is a middleman that we pay to ‘negotiate’ on our behalf with our employer. Frankly, I feel who better to negotiate on my behalf than myself,” added Murphy. “I don’t see any benefit in having a union at CRMC.”
Under federal law, when the required number of workers in a bargaining unit sign a petition seeking the removal of union officials’ monopoly bargaining powers, an NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote whether to remove the union is triggered. If a majority of workers casting ballots against vote for the union, the union is stripped of its government-granted monopoly “representation” powers.
Those powers let union officials impose contracts on all workers in the workplace, even workers who are not union members and oppose the union. Further, because Minnesota is not a Right to Work state, union-imposed contracts can include mandatory union dues or fees, with nonmember workers fired if they do not pay.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal statute the NLRB implements, workers possess an specified statutory right to remove an unwanted union through a decertification election. Yet the NLRB has invented out of whole cloth a “contract bar” that blocks workers’ right to hold a decertification election for up to three years after union officials and a company finalize a monopoly bargaining contract.
After miscounting the signatures, the NLRB Regional Director cited the “contract bar” as a reason for dismissing the petition. Had the Region not ultimately reversed itself, that erroneous decision could have blocked a decertification vote for three more years because of the contract bar.
In response, Murphy’s Foundation staff attorneys filed a Request for Review with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., asking them to not only review the dismissal of the petition, citing the undercounting of workers’ signatures, but also to reconsider the “contract bar” given its role in stifling workers’ statutory right to a decertification vote. Before the NLRB could rule the Region, finally admitting its miscount, reversed the earlier ruling not to move forward with the vote the workers had requested.
“We’re glad to see Ms. Murphy and her coworkers able to move forward with their decertification election, clear mistakes by the NLRB all of which, perhaps not coincidentally, served the interests of SEIU union bosses who don’t want to face a vote of rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The fact that a worker needs our legal support and expertise just to get the Labor Board to do really simple math is just the latest example of how the NLRB is biased against workers who oppose coercive unionization.”
Union Seeking to Destroy Ballots of Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Clerical Workers Who Want to Remove SEIU
The technical employees covered by Murphy’s petition are not the only group of workers at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center seeking to free themselves of unwanted SEIU so-called “representation.” Also with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, CRMC employee Terri Larson filed a separate decertification petition for clerical employees working in the business office or medical records department.
The clerical employees’ petition was promptly processed by the NLRB and a mail-ballot decertification election has already taken place. However, before the votes could be counted, the SEIU sought to block the election by filing “blocking charge” allegations. Now, not only are the votes impounded, the NLRB has announced it intends to decide whether or not to destroy the ballots at the request of SEIU lawyers.
“As this situation shows, winning the right to hold a decertification vote is often just the beginning for workers seeking to free themselves from union wanted union ‘representation,’” added Mix. “Biased NLRB-invented procedures give union officials the ability to block the tallying of votes against the union, often indefinitely, leaving workers trapped in union ranks they overwhelmingly oppose.”
In Attempt to Avoid Being Voted Out, PA Steelworkers Union Bosses Secretly ‘Ratify’ Contract Workers Twice Overwhelmingly Rejected
Workers petitioned for election to oust union after first vote against contract, but union boss secretly signed unpopular contract in July anyway to maintain power
Franklin, PA (September 19, 2022) – Workers at Latrobe Specialty Steel’s facility (also known as Carpenter Technology) in Franklin, PA, are fighting Steelworkers union officials’ attempt to trap them under a union contract workers voted down twice. Their effort follows union bosses’ secret “ratification” of the unpopular contract despite telling workers that their votes would determine whether the contract would go into effect. Latrobe Specialty Steel employees are seeking to “decertify,” i.e. vote out, the Steelworkers Union with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Kerry Hunsberger leads an employee push to vote out the Steelworkers union at Latrobe Specialty Steel. Hunsberger’s attorneys filed a brief this week at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) arguing that union officials concocted an improbable contract ratification story to avoid being voted out by the workers they claim to “represent.” The union bosses admit to signing the unpopular contract behind workers’ backs in an attempt to trigger the NLRB’s so-called “contract bar” policy. The “contract bar” arbitrarily immunizes unions from employee decertification votes for up to three years after a contract between union and company officials is finalized.
Steelworkers Union Officials Signed Unpopular Contract to Avoid Being Voted Out by Workers
Latrobe Specialty Steel workers first voted July 25 on the contract drawn up by Steelworkers union officials. The workers soundly rejected the contract, and Hunsberger began collecting employee signatures for a “decertification petition” shortly afterwards. The NLRB will administer a union decertification election among the workers of a facility if the petition contains the signatures of 30% or more of the employees.
According to documents and transcripts filed with the NLRB, when Steelworkers union officials discovered a decertification petition was circulating, they secretly signed the disfavored contract on July 28, without telling the employees or the employer, in an attempt to activate the “contract bar” rule and avoid being voted out.
In their haste to enact the employee-rejected contract to trigger the “contract bar,” union officials didn’t even finalize critical details of the contract like the start and end dates. Even though the union claims this contract was supposedly in effect on July 28, union officials held a new employee ratification vote on August 1, encouraging workers to ratify the contract, but not telling them their “vote” was a meaningless formality because the contract was already signed and in effect.
Hunsberger submitted a valid decertification petition on August 1, just hours before the sham contract vote occurred. As with the previous vote, the workers again lopsidedly rejected the contract. But later that night, union officials suddenly announced to the employer that the contract was already in effect and the ratification vote was a nullity because of the union bosses’ covert signing on July 28. According to the trial transcript, one union boss admitted under oath that the Steelworkers union executes contracts despite employees voting them down, and that he did so in this case and ignored the employees’ vote against the contract “to protect the integrity of the union.” Apparently the Steelworkers bosses’ lust for monopoly bargaining power and compulsory union payments takes precedence over employee democracy.
In fact, the Steelworkers Union’s post-hearing brief openly admits that union officials “executed the contract on July 28 to… pre-empt the decertification petition circulating at the facility” and that the August 1 “vote was only taken as a courtesy to employees [and] was an attempt to obtain their blessing of the contract that the [union officials] had already executed.”
In the same brief union bosses doubled down on their deceptive practices, stating that “the Union’s representations to employees here are irrelevant… and the union was within its discretion to take a vote of its members and was not obligated to abide by the results of such a vote” (emphasis added).
Hunsberger now waits for Regional NLRB officials to decide if union bosses’ ploy to hastily “ratify” an incomplete and unpopular contract over the objections of multiple workers’ votes successfully blocked workers’ statutory right to a decertification vote.
Foundation President: “Contract Bar” Policy Encourages Anti-Democratic Gamesmanship by Union Bosses
Foundation attorneys’ brief defending Hunsberger and her coworkers’ right to vote the union out argues that the contract never took effect due to the lack of a discernible effective date as well as the lack of an employee vote in favor of ratification. The Foundation attorney’s brief argues that Steelworkers officials’ assertions that they entered into a binding contract are “nothing more than a smokescreen, concocted by a desperate and unpopular Union to entrench itself and bar employee free choice” by manipulating the “contract bar.”
“The ‘contract bar’ arbitrarily blocks, often for years, workers’ statutory right under federal law to vote out union officials they oppose. Worse, it encourages union officials to cynically impose a contract at all costs, especially when union bosses know rank-and-file workers would see such a contract as a reason to want to be free of so-called union ‘representation,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Immunizing union officials from being voted out by the workers they claim to ‘represent’ creates an incentive structure in which union boss power comes first and majority support among workers comes last.”
“This case presents an easy choice for the NLRB: defend the rights of rank-and-file workers or side with Steelworkers union officials who repeatedly misled those workers and twice disregarded their votes simply to protect union power and compulsory dues,” added Mix.
Blue Ridge Parkway Employee Challenges Federal Agency Decision Blocking Right to Vote Out AFGE Union
Employee request for vote to oust union was denied after Federal Labor Relations Authority merged two units without employee consent
Washington, DC (September 9, 2022) – National Park Service (NPS) employee Lauren Labrie has just filed a brief at the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), opposing an order blocking her and her coworkers’ right to vote American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union officials out of power.
Her brief, filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, challenges the FLRA’s dismissal of a “union decertification petition” seeking an election to remove the union. Labrie and her colleagues signed the petition after FLRA officials administratively merged their work unit with another without any vote by her and her fellow employees on the new arrangement. Union officials and the FLRA then cited the merger as a reason to block the decertificiation vote the workers requested.
The brief challenges the FLRA’s suspect position that, under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act, an employee-requested election to remove a union can be blocked after a union is installed by agency fiat through “unit consolidation.” The only “election bar” authorized by the statute is one for 12 months after employees have voted to install a union by secret ballot, the brief argues.
FLRA “Consolidated” Units at Union Behest, Then Stopped Workers from Voting on Union
Labrie’s brief explains that she and her fellow Blue Ridge Parkway NPS employees were under the control of two different AFGE union locals as of June 2021. AFGE union officials then petitioned to consolidate the two units, and a regional FLRA official approved the move in September 2021 – without giving employees any opportunity to vote on whether they wanted the merger.
In December 2021, the petition to decertify AFGE as the union with control over the workers was filed. The petition was signed by a number of her colleagues sufficient to trigger an FLRA-administered election whether to remove the union. A regional FLRA official dismissed the petition in March 2022, claiming it was blocked by a 12-month “election bar” stemming from the top-down, unilateral consolidation of the work units.
Park Employee’s Brief: Blocking Election Stifles Employees’ Free Choice Rights
Foundation attorneys argue in Labrie’s brief that applying “election bars” after agency-imposed unit consolidations violates federal employees’ free choice rights, which the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act was meant to protect.
“In passing the Statute, Congress’ intent was to promote secret ballot elections and employees’ freedom to choose their representative under the Statute,” the brief says. “Not allowing employees to exercise their free choice because the Authority administratively combined two bargaining units undermines Congress’ goal of promoting the right of employees to select their own agent.”
The brief asks that the FLRA reverse its decision blocking Labrie and her coworkers’ vote and immediately hold an election.
Labrie’s defense of her and her coworkers’ request to decertify the AFGE union comes as Foundation attorneys are aiding private sector workers across the country in defending their right to vote out union officials of whom they disapprove. Unfortunately, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for overseeing labor relations in the private sector, has just announced rulemaking to undo Foundation-backed 2020 reforms that make it harder for union officials to stop workers from exercising this right.
“Union officials in both the public and private sectors want to maintain their coercive grip on workplaces across the country, regardless of how many workers oppose their monopoly so-called ‘representation,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Thanks to the Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court precedent, Ms. Labrie and her fellow park employees at least have a First Amendment right to cut off any dues payments to AFGE union bosses they oppose.”
“But the fact that FLRA officials are letting union officials dodge employee-requested decertification votes simply by consolidating units shows the degree to which union power is not a function of rank-and-file support, but a result of the way government policy entrenches union bosses to the detriment of individual workers’ rights,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Minnesota Nurses Impacted by MNA Strike Threat
Strike would affect up to 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports, but healthcare workers have right to rebuff union boss strike demand
Twin Cities, MN (September 8, 2022) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation issued a special legal notice for nurses potentially affected by a strike being threatened by Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union officials at 15 hospital locations in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Superior Wisconsin. The strike is reportedly scheduled to start September 12, 2022.
Because of the MNA unions’ monopoly power, the strike scheduled by MNA will affect up to 15,000 nurses, impacting the care of countless patients. The Foundation’s legal notice informs nurses of the rights union officials often conceal, including that the nurses have the right not to abandon their patients but instead to continue providing medical care while also working to support their families.
Importantly, the notice gives workers who want to exercise their right to work information on how to avoid fines and punishment that would likely be imposed by union officials.
“While a strike vote does not mean a strike is imminent, the situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the legal notice reads. “If a strike occurs, employees have the right under federal labor law to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for you to get informed before you do so.”
The Foundation’s special legal notice highlights workers’ rights to resign union membership and to revoke their union dues check-offs. In just the past few months National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have assisted hundreds of Minnesota nurses, many in decertification votes to remove unwanted union “representation.”
Recently, Foundation staff attorneys assisted hundreds of nurses at the Mayo Clinic in Mankato, Minnesota. There, nurses voted to remove Minnesota Nurses Association union officials. Union officials attempted to overturn the vote, but failed after Foundation staff attorneys defended the outcome for the nurses before the National Labor Relations Board.
Currently, staff attorneys represent nurses at Mayo Clinic Lake City in Minnesota who seek a vote to free themselves from MNA. Additionally, Foundation staff attorneys are also assisting nurses at four Cuyuna Regional Medical Center locations in exercising their right to obtain a vote to free themselves of unwanted union so-called “representation.”
The National Right to Work Foundation is the nation’s premier organization, exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse. The full special notice for the nurses can be found at https://www.nrtw.org/mnastrike2022/
“For decades, the Foundation has provided free legal aid to workers to protect them from Big Labor’s coercive tactics, which are especially common during union boss-instigated strikes,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “Nurses always have the right to continue to work during a strike, despite what union officials may tell them or try to pressure them into doing.”
“However, for nurses who choose not to abandon their patients, there are important steps they should take to protect themselves from vindictive union retaliation,” added Mix.