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.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.