Employees’ right under National Labor Relations Act to hold decertification vote is blocked by settlement between union and company
Chicago, IL (June 3, 2019) – An employee at Langer Transport Corporation’s Joliet, IL, facility has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review a ruling by NLRB Region 13 that blocks workers at the company from holding a vote to remove the Teamsters from their workplace.
Angelika Van Meeteren’s petition comes after the Teamsters union officials and Langer last October settled earlier unfair labor practice charges filed by the union against Langer. The agreement included a “settlement bar” clause immunizing the union from any decertification attempts for an entire year.
Van Meeteren and her coworkers who want the decertification vote were not parties to the agreement. Although not authorized by the National Labor Relations Act, prior NLRB actions created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which denies workers their right to hold a vote to remove a union for a period of time after the settlement of charges filed against the employer. The bar is often imposed even when the settlement does not contain any admission that the employer violated the law.
Van Meeteren’s petition, which was filed with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, argues that settlement decertification bars “have no basis in the [National Labor Relations] Act” and “offend basic principles of justice” because they prevent employees from exercising their right to hold a decertification vote simply because a company and a union came to an agreement forbidding it — without any input from the employees. That right is guarded by Section 7 of the NLRA, which explicitly protects “the right to refrain from” union representation.
Foundation staff attorneys have fought “settlement bars” on a number of fronts, most recently in a federal lawsuit filed for Marcia Williams and Karen Wunz, two Pennsylvania school bus drivers whose decertification petition was blocked by the NLRB after their employer Krise Transportation came to a settlement with Teamsters Local 397. That lawsuit was eventually deemed moot, because the bar expired while the litigation was proceeding, thus allowing the workers to hold a vote. The Foundation also sent a letter to the NLRB last December requesting that future rulemaking by the Board address “settlement bars” and their inherent conflicts with the NLRA.
“The NLRB-concocted ‘settlement bar’ doctrine is an assault on fundamental fairness by restricting workers’ legal right to remove an unpopular union solely because of unproven allegations made against their employer by union officials,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The Act is supposed to protect the right of workers to join or reject a union. Punishing Angelika Van Meeteren and her coworkers by blocking their petition to vote out a union they oppose, despite the fact no one even alleges the workers broke any law, is totally contrary to that fundamental purpose.”
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.