Vote to remove union comes as Pennsylvania employees fight legal battle against Steelworkers officials who trapped them under union power and disregarded votes
Burlington, NJ (October 18, 2022) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Michael Cobourn and his coworkers at Gold Bond Building Products in Burlington, NJ, have successfully exercised their right to vote unwanted Steelworkers (USW) union officials out of their facility. The vote, held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was decisive, with nearly 70 percent of those participating in the election casting ballots to oust the union.
The vote follows Cobourn’s submission of a “decertification petition” signed by enough of his coworkers to prompt the NLRB to hold a vote on whether to remove the union. Although the NLRB’s decertification process is still prone to union boss-created roadblocks, Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 have made the decertification process somewhat easier.
Before the reforms, union officials could stop workers who had 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 handled.
Because New Jersey lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, USW union officials had the power to force Cobourn and his colleagues to pay dues or fees to the union hierarchy just to stay employed. In contrast, in Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are the choice of each individual worker and can’t be required as a condition of employment.
“My coworkers and I were paying money to the Steelworkers union constantly, yet the union didn’t seem to be doing anything for us,” commented Mr. Cobourn. “I’m very grateful to the National Right to Work Foundation for helping us through the union decertification process, and we look forward to being free of the union’s control and influence.”
USW Union Officials in Pennsylvania Fight to Quash Similar Foundation-Backed Employee Effort
Cobourn’s victory comes as USW union officials are battling another employee-led decertification effort in Franklin, PA. There, the USW bosses claim at the NLRB that their rushed and unilateral approval of an unpopular union contract must block Latrobe Specialty Steel/Carpenter Technology employees’ right to vote the union out. In that case, USW officials hastily “ratified” the unpopular contract after getting wind that employees were seeking to remove the union. This was an apparent attempt to deploy the “contract bar,” a non-statutory restriction that blocks workers from voting out unions they oppose for up to three years after union officials sign a contract with management.
USW bosses, by their own admission, held a phony employee “vote” on the contract after it had already been covertly signed by them, tricking workers into thinking their votes would determine the fate of the contract. In sworn testimony, one union boss admitted that USW agents are free to execute contracts despite employees voting them down, and that union officials misled the Latrobe workers and ignored their votes against the contract “to protect the integrity of the union.”
The employee effort to oust the union is being led by Latrobe Specialty Steel employee Kerry Hunsberger, who obtained free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation. Foundation attorneys argue for her and her coworkers that the USW bosses’ ploy is “nothing more than a smokescreen, concocted by a desperate and unpopular Union to entrench itself and bar employee free choice” under federal law.
“USW officials openly admit that their modus operandi is to subordinate employee rights and interests to maintain union power, so we’re glad that that Mr. Cobourn and his coworkers were able to exercise their right to kick such union officials out of their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Still, as the situation in Franklin, PA, demonstrates, more work needs to be done to safeguard employees’ right to decertify unions that they oppose.”
“The Foundation will continue to defend Ms. Hunsberger, her coworkers, and any other American employee who faces union-created roadblocks to exercising their right to eject the USW or any other union officials from their workplace,” added Mix.
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 around 250 cases nationwide per year.