National Right to Work Foundation Submits Comments Blasting Biden NLRB’s Rule to Trap Workers in Unions They Oppose
Biden National Labor Relations Board plans to overturn Election Protection Rule, undermining workers’ statutory right to vote whether to remove unpopular unions
Washington, DC (February 3, 2023) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has just submitted comments opposing the Biden National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) proposed rule to re-impose several onerous restrictions on workers. The rule is designed to, once again, trap private sector workers under the so-called “representation” of a union opposed by a majority of employees in a workplace.
The slated rule changes will overturn the Election Protection Rule, which the NLRB adopted in 2020 after the Foundation advocated for the elimination of several non-statutory policies that union officials often manipulate to avoid being voted out of a workplace by employees. The current comments opposing the changes rely on the Foundation’s unique perspective as the leading organization providing free legal aid to private-sector workers who face obstacles to exercising their right to vote on whether to remove an incumbent union (known as “decertification” elections).
“The Foundation is uniquely situated to comment on and oppose these rules, as its staff attorneys have represented individual decertification petitioners in many of the leading cases in this area of the law,” the comments say. “Foundation lawyers provide pro bono representation in a large percentage of the Board’s current decertification cases. To take just one recent snapshot, Foundation staff attorneys represent approximately 50% of the employees who filed decertification petitions in the month of December 2022.”
Biden NLRB Rule Change Will Let Union Officials Use “Blocking Charges” to Delay Elections
The Foundation’s comments explain that, if the Election Protection Rule is tossed, union officials will again be able to exploit often-unproven allegations of employer behavior to cancel employee-requested union decertification votes. Prior to the 2020 reforms, union officials could often stall a decertification vote for months or even years by filing so-called “blocking charges.”
The 2020 Election Protection Rule overturned the “blocking charge” policy, so workers now are allowed in most cases to cast ballots in a decertification vote before the NLRB deals with any allegations surrounding the election. If the Rule is jettisoned, workers would be blocked from even voting, let alone having their votes counted, any time union officials conjure up claims of workplace malfeasance.
“The bottom line is this: the former blocking charge policy incentivized [union officials] to file meritless or even frivolous unfair labor practice charges because they know the election will be delayed,” the comments say.
Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal assistance to many workers faced with “blocking charges.” Notably, the Foundation assisted a group of Alaskan bus drivers who were freed in December 2019 from an unpopular Teamsters union after three years of attempts to remove it. One employee in that situation commented to the NLRB shortly before the adoption of the Election Protection Rule that the NLRB’s continued blocking of the election based on the Teamsters’ unfair labor practice charges was “the most unfair and anti-democratic event” with which he had ever been involved.
Abuse-Prone “Card Check” Drives Likely to Become Irrebuttable
The Biden NLRB’s slated elimination of the Election Protection Rule will also block workers from filing for secret-ballot decertification elections to challenge so-called “card check” drives. A “card check” is a process in which union officials claim majority support among employees in a workplace based solely on authorization cards signed by employees and submitted by union officials, bypassing the election process entirely. The cards’ indication of true majority status is dubious as union agents may collect them directly from workers and often use threatening or intimidating tactics to do so.
The Election Protection Rule added a check to the misnamed “voluntary recognition bar,” a non-statutory policy that blocked workers from filing for a secret-ballot decertification election for a year after a union was installed via “card check.” The Election Protection Rule instead provided workers the ability to challenge a “card check” by petitioning for a secret-ballot vote, a theory first espoused in the Foundation-won 2007 Dana Corp. NLRB decision. If the Election Protection Rule is scrapped, the “voluntary recognition bar” would return.
Barring worker-submitted union decertification petitions “only shields what may well be a minority union from challenge” and “destroys employees’ [statutory] rights,” the comments assert.
Construction Workers Could Be Unionized with No Evidence of Majority Support
The comments finally warn that, if the Election Protection Rule is removed, construction workers would be exposed to unilateral attempts by union bosses and employers to impose union monopoly power with absolutely no evidence of majority employee support. The comments explain that these arrangements defy federal labor law and lay waste to employee free choice rights: “To cavalierly defer to unproven employer and labor organization assertions concerning employees’ exercise of their rights is akin to a farmer putting two foxes in charge of guarding his henhouse.”
Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc., a case that ended when a U.S. DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled that the company’s workers were unlawfully unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.
“The move to eliminate the Election Protection Rule will re-impose arbitrary policies that trample workers’ rights and allow union bosses to maintain power despite the overwhelming opposition of rank-and-file workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Biden NLRB, now stocked with former union lawyers, is putting on full display that its priorities lie with top DC union brass, not rank-and-file American workers.”
Federal Labor Board to Prosecute Kentucky Steelworkers Union for Threatening, Seizing Money from Northern KY Worker
Former Duro Hilex Poly employee filed charges against union and employer in 2022, National Labor Relations Board complaints affirm employee allegations
Erlanger, KY (January 31, 2023) – Melva Hernandez, a former employee of paper bag manufacturer Duro Hilex Poly in Erlanger, KY, has scored a victory in her federal case charging United Steelworkers (USW) Local 832 union officials and her employer with taking dues money from her paycheck illegally. Hernandez is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys.
In response to federal charges Hernandez filed in July 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has begun prosecuting the USW union. A complaint issued January 25 by the NLRB asserts union officials violated federal labor law by seizing money from Hernandez’s paycheck after she ended her union membership, and by threatening her after she told other employees about how to exercise their right to resign from the union.
Hernandez’s July 2022 charges also contended that “escape period” limitations USW officials used to restrict when workers could end dues deductions are not enforceable under federal law.
In Kentucky and 26 other states with Right to Work protections, union membership and union financial support are strictly voluntary and the choice of each individual worker. In states lacking such protections, union bosses can demand that workers under their control pay union “fees” as a condition of keeping their jobs. The Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet Secretary could decide to separately prosecute the USW union for breaching Kentucky’s Right to Work law.
Union Officials Forced Duro Employee into Membership & Dues Payment, Sought to Ban Speech Critical of Union
Hernandez worked at Duro Hilex Poly from 2011 until 2022. Her July 2022 charge explained that she first submitted a letter to union officials in August 2021 exercising her right to end her union membership and all dues deductions to the union. A union agent rejected her request, alleging that it would only be accepted within a so-called “escape period” created by union officials.
The complaint says Hernandez resubmitted her request in April 2022 on a date falling within the union-concocted “escape period,” only to be redirected by union agents to USW Local 832 President Tara Purnhagen.
After Hernandez tendered her resignation to Purnhagen, “Ms. Purnhagen scolded and harassed me, accusing me of trying to convince my fellow co-workers to drop their union memberships,” Hernandez’s charges say. Purnhagen also forbade Hernandez from discussing with her coworkers reasons to refrain from union membership. Until Hernandez quit her job at Duro Hilex Poly, USW officials continued taking money unlawfully from her paycheck.
Her charges argued that union officials’ actions infringed on her rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the right of workers to abstain from union activities if they choose, and not be retaliated against by union officials for exercising or advocating that right.
NLRB Complaint States Union Committed Multiple Rights Violations
The NLRB’s complaint affirms that USW union officials broke federal labor law by taking dues from her paycheck “notwithstanding the absence of an employee authorization for the deductions and remittance,” and by threatening Hernandez and other employees who exercised their right to leave the union or talked about doing so.
However, on the dues deduction issue, the NLRB’s complaint only seeks to prosecute USW bosses for money seized from Hernandez’s paycheck after she opted out of the union the second time, within the union’s so-called “escape period.” Hernandez filed an appeal to the NLRB in Washington, DC, contending that her first attempt should have stopped the flow of dues, because the restriction is unenforceable.
“It’s outrageous that the only way Ms. Hernandez could escape the predatory dues practices of Steelworkers union officials was to quit and find another job entirely,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although it’s encouraging that the NLRB is finally taking action against Steelworkers officials’ patently illegal behavior, rank-and-file workers should not have to file federal cases, let alone quit their jobs, simply to preserve their freedom of association.”
National Right to Work Foundation Slams Biden FLRA Move to Restrict Federal Employees’ Right to Stop Union Dues
Foundation comments expose flimsy statutory foundations of proposed rule, also show it violates federal workers’ First Amendment Janus rights
Washington, DC (January 25, 2023) – The National Right to Work Foundation just filed comments at the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), opposing the agency’s plan to restrict federal employees’ right to stop unwanted union financial support for over 99 percent of the year.
The FLRA announced in December 2022 the proposed rule, which would rescind a 2020 regulation that permits federal employees to stop union dues deductions from their paychecks any time after one year from the date employees authorize such deductions. Foundation attorneys in 2020 filed comments supporting the current regulation that eliminated an FLRA-created limit on federal workers’ legal right to stop union payments.
The Foundation’s comments argue that the slated rule would return the FLRA to an incorrect interpretation of federal law in which dues deductions are “perpetually irrevocable for consecutive years,” except for one day to opt out between yearly periods. The Foundation points out that the statute simply says that dues deduction authorizations “may not be revoked for a period of 1 year,” (emphasis added) not multiple “periods,” which lets employees quit dues deductions any time after an initial yearlong period of irrevocability. Subsequent yearly restrictions, Foundation attorneys argue, are not supported by the statute.
Such a flawed interpretation would trap employees into subsidizing an entire year of unwanted union “representation” and expenditures merely because they miss the arbitrary one-day opt-out deadline. “The Authority will violate [federal law] if it . . . decrees that dues deduction assignments can be made irrevocable for multiple yearly periods,” the comments say.
Biden FLRA Rule Change Will Block Federal Employees’ First Amendment Janus Rights
The Foundation also points out that the 2020 rule lets federal employees exercise their First Amendment rights recognized in the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision to the greatest extent possible under the governing federal law. In Janus, the Court ruled that all American public sector workers have a First Amendment right to refrain from paying dues to an unwanted union, and that union dues deductions from a public sector worker’s paycheck can only occur with his or her affirmative consent.
If the Biden FLRA rescinds the 2020 rule and makes union dues deductions irrevocable for consecutive yearly periods, the federal government would be allowed to “disregard its employees’ wishes and continue to seize monies from their wages for a cause they oppose,” the comments read. That would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment principles recognized in Janus.
The 2020 rule instead sought to bring the dues deduction statute in line with Janus’ First Amendment standard “by construing the irrevocability period in [federal law] to be as short as possible,” the comments say.
The comments also refute union officials’ claims that rescinding the 2020 rules is necessary to maintain union financial interests and protect employee choice. The comments point out that union financial interests do not trump the right of workers to stop unwanted union financial support, and that eliminating the greater freedom to do so provided by the 2020 rule cannot possibly safeguard employee free choice.
“The Federal Labor Relations Authority, now stocked with union-label Biden appointees, is moving to limit the rights of rank-and-file workers just to give federal union bosses expanded powers to seize union dues over the objections of the workers they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “All American public sector workers have a First Amendment right under Janus to freely make this choice, and by changing the rules the FLRA will deliberately undermine the constitutional rights of the federal workforce.”
Pittsburgh-Area Teen Hits UFCW Union and Giant Eagle with Religious Discrimination and Unfair Labor Practice Charges
Union sought to interrogate teenage cashier over his religious beliefs after he asserted his rights and presented religious objections to supporting the union
Pittsburgh, PA (January 17, 2023) – North Huntingdon Giant Eagle employee Josiah Leonatti – a high school student – has filed federal discrimination charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776KS union. He maintains that union officials refused to consider his religious beliefs after he expressed religious objections to joining and paying dues to the union. Union officials, according to his charges, subjected him to an illegal “religion test” to determine whether his religious beliefs count.
Leonatti is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, who filed charges for him against the union at both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). They also filed charges against Giant Eagle for firing him after he asked for a religious accommodation. Giant Eagle falsely told him that he must join the union to keep his job.
Leonatti charges that the UFCW union and Giant Eagle are breaching Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Title VII requires unions and employers to accommodate employees who have religious objections to joining or supporting a union. The NLRA also prohibits forced union membership regardless of a worker’s reason for not wanting to affiliate with a union. Leonatti’s Title VII claims will be investigated by the EEOC; the NLRB will handle his NLRA claims.
Pennsylvania’s lack of Right to Work protections means that union officials may force private sector workers in unionized workplaces, like Leonatti, to pay them fees or be fired. Under federal law, employees with religious objections cannot be compelled to pay such fees. Right to Work states broaden that protection; in Right to Work states, no worker can be fired for refusal to join or financially support a union no matter the reason for objecting to subsidizing union activities.
High School-Age Employee Dismissed After Presenting Religious Objection
Leonatti’s charges report that he attended employee training last year as a cashier trainee. There an official told new hires that they “must sign papers to join the United Food And Commercial Workers.” According to the NLRB charges, “No other options were even hinted at.”
After reviewing the papers with his family, Leonatti’s charges explain, he mailed a letter to UFCW officials detailing his sincere religious objections to joining and supporting the union. He also presented the same letter in person at training. Rather than accommodate his sincere religious beliefs, a company official “dismissed [Leonatti] from training and sent [him] home.” The same official later called Leonatti and told him that union membership is compulsory at Giant Eagle, and the grocery store had terminated him over his refusal to join.
UFCW officials also responded to Leonatti’s letter by mail on November 10, rejecting the written explanation of Leonatti’s religious objection and demanding he “complete its religious examination” before they even considered granting him an accommodation. Even if he passed this “test,” the charges say, union officials threatened that he would still have to pay an amount equal to full UFCW union dues to a charity.
A religious test is forbidden by federal law. The Supreme Court ruled in its 1981 Thomas v. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division decision that “religious beliefs need not be…comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”
Leonatti’s father called Giant Eagle’s HR department, according to the charges, to gain more clarity. A Giant Eagle employee reiterated that employment depended on union membership. After missing several weeks of work because the store had terminated him, Leonatti got an email from Giant Eagle inviting him to return to work.
To date, however, no Giant Eagle agent ever offered or discussed a religious accommodation with Leonatti, and the union has not retracted its threats or agreed to accommodate.
Employee Seeks Re-Training for Accommodation-Denying Union Officials
Leonatti’s EEOC charges seek to compel the UFCW union and Giant Eagle to provide him a legally-required religious accommodation. In addition, the NLRB charges state that relief must include unit-wide information and corporate retraining, among other remedies.
“Union bosses’ attempt to coerce a high schooler to violate his religious beliefs is unconscionable, and illegal,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We’re proud to support Mr. Leonatti as he defends his rights, but this should serve as a stark reminder that all Americans deserve Right to Work protections. Regardless of their particular reasons for not wanting to affiliate with a union, no employee’s job should hinge on whether he or she pays dues to a private organization.”
Flight Attendant Asks for Contempt Ruling Against Southwest for Violating Court Order Regarding Illegal Firing at Union’s Behest
District Court ordered Southwest to announce that airline may not discriminate on basis of religion; airline instead effectively denied wrongdoing despite jury verdict
Dallas, TX (January 9, 2023) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter is seeking sanctions against Southwest for flouting the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas’ decision in her case. Carter sued both Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 and Southwest in 2017 for firing her over opposing the union’s political stances – a violation of both the Railway Labor Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The District Court in December 2022 ordered Southwest and the union to give Carter the maximum amount of compensatory and punitive damages permitted under federal law, plus back-pay, and other forms of relief that a jury originally awarded following Carter’s victory in a July trial. The Court also mandated that Southwest reinstate Carter, ruling that only requiring Southwest and the TWU union to pay out future monetary damages to Carter “would complete Southwest’s unlawful scheme” of firing dissenting employees.
Carter’s latest motion calls on the District Court to impose sanctions against Southwest for releasing a misleading “Recent Court Decision” notice to its roughly 17,000 flight attendants, arguing that the notice papers over the airline’s significant rights violations found by the Court. The notice states that Southwest “does not discriminate” against its employees based on religious belief, despite the Court’s finding that Southwest did discriminate against Carter on religious grounds. The motion also says Southwest’s notice fails to make a court-ordered announcement that the airline is forbidden from discriminating in the future.
Foundation attorneys also contend that an “Inflight Information On The Go” memo the airline issued chills flight attendants’ religious expression, beliefs, and practices. The memo implies that Southwest will be the final arbiter of what kind of religious speech is acceptable in the workplace, while characterizing Carter’s speech challenging the TWU union’s political positions as “inappropriate, harassing, and offensive,” and thus worthy of punishment.
The motion asks the District Court to find the airline in contempt so it can issue monetary sanctions against Southwest, and further order the airline to immediately issue corrective notices.
Flight Attendant Called Out Union Officials for Their Political Activities
As a Southwest employee, Carter joined TWU Local 556 in September 1996. A pro-life Christian, she resigned her membership in September 2013 after learning that her union dues were being used to promote causes that violate her conscience and have nothing to do with her work.
Carter resigned from union membership, but was still forced to pay fees to TWU Local 556 as a condition of her employment. State Right to Work laws do not protect her and her fellow flight attendants from forced union fees because airline and railway employees are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA allows union officials to have a worker fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees. But it does protect the rights of nonmembers of the union who are forced to associate with a union, including the rights to criticize the union and its leadership, and advocate for changing the union’s current leadership.
In January 2017, Carter learned that Audrey Stone, the union president, and other TWU Local 556 officials used union money to attend the “Women’s March on Washington D.C.,” which was sponsored by political groups she opposed, including Planned Parenthood.
Carter, a vocal critic of Stone and the union, took to social media to challenge Stone’s leadership and to express support for a recall effort that would remove Stone from power. Carter also sent Stone a message affirming her commitment to both the recall effort and a National Right to Work law after the union had sent an email to employees telling them to oppose Right to Work.
After Carter sent Stone that email, Southwest managers notified Carter that they needed to have a mandatory meeting as soon as possible about “Facebook posts they had seen.” During this meeting, Southwest presented Carter screenshots of her pro-life posts and messages and questioned why she made them.
Carter explained her religious beliefs and opposition to the union’s political activities. Carter said that, by participating in the Women’s March, President Stone and TWU Local 556 members purported to represent all Southwest flight attendants. Southwest authorities told Carter that President Stone claimed to be harassed by Carter’s messages. A week after this meeting, Southwest fired Carter.
Flight Attendant Wins Jury Verdict and District Court Decision
In 2017, Carter filed her federal lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the firing as an abuse of her rights, alleging she lost her job because of her religious beliefs, standing up to TWU Local 556 officials, and criticizing the union’s political activities and how it spent employees’ dues and fees. In July 2022, she won a federal jury verdict awarding millions of dollars in damages for Southwest’s and TWU’s violations of her rights, and in December 2022 the District Court issued its judgment in her favor.
“First, Southwest Airlines violated Charlene Carter’s rights by firing her at the union’s behest. Now, the airline is doubling down by misleading other workers about its wrongdoing in defiance of a federal court order,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation attorneys will continue to defend Ms. Carter’s rights, and will ensure that Southwest’s attempts to dodge the requirements of the decision in her favor will not go unopposed.”
Union and CVS face federal charges after UFCW officials initiated firing of worker who exercised legal right to refrain from union membership
Chicago, IL (December 22, 2022) – Evanston CVS employee Lynn Gray has won reinstatement after United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union officials had her illegally fired for refusing to join the union. Gray received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Gray filed federal unfair labor practice charges on December 16 at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against both the union and her employer, stating that CVS management illegally fired her after UFCW officials sent her letters threatening termination if she did not become a union member. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is responsible for enforcing, forbids union bosses from having workers fired for refusing formal union membership.
Almost immediately after Gray filed the charges with free Foundation legal representation, CVS reinstated her, likely knowing that the union-initiated termination was a clear violation of federal law.
Although forced union membership is prohibited under the NLRA, Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, meaning union bosses can force workers under their control to pay them money just as a condition of staying employed. However, the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision won by Foundation attorneys prevents union officials from forcing nonmembers to pay for any activities beyond the union’s bargaining functions, such as political and ideological expenses.
In contrast, in states with Right to Work protections (including Illinois’ neighbors Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky), no worker can be fired for refusal to pay money to unwanted union officials.
Employee Paid Union Dues Under Protest, But UFCW Bosses Still Ordered Firing
Gray’s charge says she began working part-time shifts at the CVS in early October. In late November she received a letter from UFCW union officials stating that she needed to pay full union dues to keep her job, and alleging that she already owed nearly $200 in back union dues. Gray responded on December 5, sending the amount that the union declared she owed but clarifying that she was doing so “under protest and solely to protect my job with CVS.”
“Please note that the enclosed payment in no way indicates my consent to becoming a member of UFCW or any of its affiliates,” Gray’s letter read. She also demanded the union provide her the calculation for the amount they claimed she owed.
Union officials at no point informed Gray of her rights under Beck to pay reduced union dues as a nonmember, or her right to abstain from union membership.
Although a union official acknowledged the receipt of her letter, CVS management contacted Gray only days later to tell her that she had been terminated at union officials’ behest. With Foundation legal aid, Gray filed federal charges against the union and CVS on December 16. Her charge sought an NLRB 10(j) injunction, which if granted would let a court order her immediate reinstatement.
Before NLRB officials could take any action on her charge, however, CVS officials hastily reinstated Gray on December 19.
Foundation President: Forced Dues Are Always Wrong, Even in Non-Right to Work States
Foundation staff attorneys earlier this year aided another Illinois employee, Murphysboro Penn Aluminum International employee Mary Beck, after International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union officials threatened to fire her for refusal to pay union fees. Foundation attorneys argued that the union officials’ contract was so sloppily written that it didn’t even let IBEW bosses enforce their legal privilege (due to Illinois’ lack of a Right to Work law) to force Beck to pay some money to the union just to keep her job.
“Union officials in non-Right to Work states like Illinois have a tendency to play fast and loose with workers’ rights and livelihoods. That’s because the core assumption behind the laws in those states is that union officials’ ability to stock their coffers should trump worker free choice,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While Beck and other Foundation-won court decisions provide at least a check on that privilege in non-Right to Work states, every American worker deserves Right to Work protections so workers can make up their own minds about whether union officials have earned their support.”
Spanish Broadcasting System Radio Host Appeals Case After Labor Board Blocks Vote to Remove SAG-AFTRA Union Officials
Request for Review: In vote to remove union, NLRB Regional Director ordered employee ballots destroyed and never counted
Los Angeles, CA (December 19, 2022) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Spanish Broadcasting System radio host Adal Loreto is defending his and his coworkers’ right to vote unwanted Stage Actors’ Guild (SAG-AFTRA) union officials out of their workplace. In July, Loreto filed a petition for a group of his coworkers seeking a vote to end union officials’ so-called “representation” over on-air talent of KLAXFM and KXOL-FM radio stations.
That National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decertification petition resulted in a mail ballot election conducted in August and September. However, the workers’ ballots were never actually counted. Now, Loreto and his National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed a Request for Review at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC, asking the Board to overturn NLRB Region 31 Director Mori Rubin’s order that the workers’ ballots be destroyed and never counted.
Loreto’s appeal says that regional NLRB officials are illegally refusing to count votes that he and his colleagues have already cast in their decertification election to decide whether SAG-AFTRA officials should be booted from the workplace. According to Loreto’s Request for Review, regional NLRB officials not only improperly relied on unverified charges (also called “blocking charges”) from SAG-AFTRA union officials to block the vote, but ignored the NLRB’s own election rules and polices.
NLRB Rules and Regulations state that, if NLRB regional officials do not issue a complaint related to a union decertification election within 60 days of the election, the votes “shall be promptly opened and counted.” Because no timely complaint was issued and NLRB Region 31 nevertheless ordered the ballots tossed, Loreto’s Request for Review argues that the regional officials are clearly disobeying NLRB Rules and Regulations in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and are violating the workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
SBS Radio Host Fights Unpopular Union’s Scheme to Stay in Power
In July 2022, Loreto submitted a valid employee-backed petition to the NLRB, asking the agency to hold a vote in his workplace on whether to remove, or “decertify,” the SAG-AFTRA union. The NLRB is the agency responsible for enforcing federal private-sector labor law and will normally conduct a “decertification vote” among workers when the required number express support, by petition, to remove the union from their workplace.
Loreto and his coworkers began voting in the decertification election on August 26, and the scheduled date for the ballot count was September 20. However, in response to SAG-AFTRA union officials’ “blocking charges,” NLRB Region 31 impounded the ballots for 60 days while it investigated the union charges.
National Right to Work Foundation-backed reforms adopted in rulemaking by the NLRB in 2020 eased the process by which employees can free themselves of an unpopular union. Under the reforms, union officials in most cases can no longer unilaterally derail an employee-requested decertification vote simply by filing “blocking charges,” which often contain unrelated and unverified allegations of employer misconduct.
In most cases, employees can still exercise their right to vote, though in some limited cases NLRB officials can impound ballots for up to 60 days while dealing with “blocking charges.” After that period, however, the vote counting must commence absent the filing of a formal complaint by the NLRB Regional Director based on the union-instigated “blocking charges.”
Loreto’s Request for Review notes that, instead of counting the votes as mandated by NLRB rules, NLRB Region 31 instead continued impounding the ballots past 60 days and later dismissed Loreto and his coworkers’ petition. This order effectively ends the workers’ effort to oust the unpopular union and would destroy the workers’ ballots without them ever being counted, despite no complaint being issued at the time when Regional Director Rubin ordered the workers be disenfranchised.
Loreto’s petition now asks the NLRB in Washington to reverse the NLRB Regional Director’s ruling and to immediately order the counting of ballots in the election as mandated by the NLRB’s own rules.
Foundation Fights Union Boss Moves to Scale Back Worker Free Choice Rights
Foundation staff attorneys aid workers across the country in exercising their right to vote out union officials who don’t serve their interests. Foundation attorneys have recently guided workers in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many other states in navigating the NLRB decertification process. Foundation attorneys will also oppose the Biden NLRB’s recently-announced plan to reverse the 2020 Foundation-backed reforms to the NLRB’s election rules, an action which would make exercising decertification rights significantly harder for countless workers across the country.
“Mr. Loreto’s situation illustrates perfectly how the NLRB, an agency that is supposed to neutrally enforce federal labor law, puts its thumb on the scale to assist union boss schemes to retain power over the wishes of rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This situation is even more egregious as the NLRB is disobeying its own rules and regulations to disenfranchise workers who simply want their votes to remove SAG-AFTRA from their workplace counted.”
“Workers should not have to endure months of litigation simply to exercise their right to oust a union they no longer want, and Foundation attorneys will fight with Mr. Loreto to right this injustice,” Mix added.
49-17 Labor Board deauthorization vote comes as nurses wait for window to hold vote to finally remove unwanted Steelworkers union boss “representation”
Austin, MN (December 19, 2022) – “We are so happy with the way the election turned out,” Mayo Clinic Austin nurse Erin Krulish commented. “I think it really shows that all of us came together to show the union that we don’t want to keep paying them when they are doing nothing for us.”
A group of nurses at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, Minnesota, overwhelmingly voted to “deauthorize” United Steelworkers (USW) Local 11-00578 union in their workplace. The workers filed the deauthorization petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Krulish filed the deauthorization petition for her coworkers who wanted to get rid of the so-called “union security clause” that authorizes USW union bosses to have nurses fired for refusing to financially support union activities. The request seeking the vote to end United Steelworkers union officials’ forced dues powers at Mayo Clinic Austin was signed by 49 of the 66 workers, well over the 30% required to trigger the NLRB-supervised election.
Minnesota is not a Right to Work state, meaning all workers in a unionized workplace can be required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, although winning such a vote can often be an uphill battle as independent workers have to take on professional forced-dues-funded union organizers, federal law does allow workers to hold deauthorization votes to end union officials’ legal authority to force workers to “pay up or be fired.”
The successful deauthorization vote at Mayo Clinic Austin comes as the nurses wait for the opportunity to end USW officials so-called “representation” at the facility completely, a process known as decertification. “We plan to decertify come next December when our contract is up and we are ready for another fight!” Krulish said following the deauthorization victory.
Currently the non-statutory NLRB-invented “contract bar” doctrine blocks workers from holding a decertification vote to remove a union’s monopoly representation powers for up to three years when a union boss-imposed contract is in effect, consequently, a deauthorization vote, which isn’t limited by the contract bar was the nurses’ only option. If the nurses at the Austin Mayo Clinic do decertify as they plan, they will join Minnesota nurses at Mayo Clinic Mankato and Mayo Clinic St. James in voting to oust union officials from their hospitals in just the six months.
Worker interest in removing unwanted unions is up nationwide. 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, with one analysis finding decertification petitions up 42% this year.
“We’re pleased Ms. Krulish and her coworkers are victorious in their effort to strip Steelworkers union bosses of their power to force nurse to pay union dues or else be fired,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Ultimately, Minnesota needs a state Right to Work law to ensure that every individual worker has the freedom to decide whether or not to financially support a union, even those who can’t overcome the hurdles required to successfully navigate the complicated deauthorization process.”
“This case also shows why it is time to end the NLRB-concocted ‘contract bar’ that traps workers in union ranks they oppose for years at a time,” added Mix. “No worker anywhere should be forced under so-called union ‘representation’ they oppose.”
Recently workers in New York, California, and New Jersey have also successfully freed themselves of unwanted Teamsters “representation”
Chicago, IL (December 15, 2022) – Morris-based Tri-State Asphalt employee Brent Johnson and his coworkers have successfully voted Teamsters Local 179 union officials out of their workplace, following Johnson’s filing of a worker-backed petition earlier this month requesting a vote to remove the Teamsters union. Johnson received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation in filing the petition for his coworkers.
The vote, conducted by Indianapolis-based National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 25, tilted overwhelmingly against continued union boss control, with nearly 80 percent of the employees voting to reject the union. The NLRB is the agency responsible for enforcing federal private-sector labor law, which includes holding union “decertification votes” among workers.
Although the NLRB’s union decertification process is still prone to union boss-created roadblocks, Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 have made it somewhat easier for workers to remove unwanted union officials.
Before the reforms, for example, union officials could stop workers who requested a decertification vote from casting ballots 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 resolved.
Johnson submitted the employee-backed petition seeking a vote whether to remove the union during a Teamsters-ordered strike against Tri-State Asphalt, during which Teamsters bosses filed charges against Tri-State Asphalt management. After the vote, Teamsters officials could have further pursued those charges in an attempt to invalidate the election result. However, because of the Foundation-backed NLRB reforms’ focus on letting workers exercise their right to vote before charges are dealt with, Teamsters officials likely saw the decisive rejection by employees and understood opposing the workers’ will would be futile.
Because Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, Teamsters union officials also had the power to force Johnson and his colleagues to pay dues or fees to the union hierarchy just to stay employed. In contrast, in the 27 Right to Work states – including neighboring Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kentucky – union membership and all union financial support are the choice of each individual worker and cannot be required as a condition of employment.
Foundation Aids Employees Coast-to-Coast in Kicking Out Teamsters Officials
Johnson and his coworkers’ successful decertification comes as Foundation staff attorneys are receiving increasing requests from workers seeking to boot Teamsters officials out of their workplaces. Just this month, Teamsters Local 294 officials fled an XPO Logistics workplace in Albany, NY, after driver William Chard obtained free Foundation legal aid in filing a petition for a decertification vote, which 65 percent of his coworkers backed.
On the West Coast, Foundation attorneys recently aided nurses in Sacramento, CA, and Home Depot freight drivers in San Jose, CA, in removing unwanted Teamsters Local 150 and Teamsters Local 853 officials, respectively.
The NLRB’s own data show that 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, with one analysis finding decertification petitions up 42 percent this year.
“Teamsters officials seem to be bleeding workplaces nationwide, a sign that they are prioritizing power and politics over the needs of workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Mr. Johnson’s case is unique, though, because without the Foundation-backed reforms to the NLRB’s union decertification process, Teamsters union officials could have made workers wade through months or even years of litigation just to exercise their right to vote out the union – which it turns out they overwhelmingly opposed.”
“However, even as workers across several industries are exercising this right at a rising rate, the Biden NLRB has announced rulemaking to roll back the Foundation-backed reforms that make decertifying unpopular unions easier,” Mix added. “The Foundation will oppose this move to hamper workers’ free choice rights, and will also continue to aid workers nationwide in voting out unions they oppose.”