Patella employees’ ordeal shows how union officials trap workers in unions they oppose, yet Biden NLRB is moving to make union decertification even harder

Passaic, NJ (September 8, 2023) – Following the third attempt by employees of Passaic-based woodworking firm Patella to obtain a vote to remove them, Carpenters Local 252 union officials have backed down and abandoned the facility. The union’s disclaimer of interest, received last week by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 22, caps off a years-long legal battle between Patella employees and recalcitrant Carpenters union officials. The workers ousted the union with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Patella employee Steve Urso led the effort to vote out the union, which began in July 2021 with the filing of a petition requesting an NLRB-administered vote to decertify the Carpenters union. Union officials used unverified allegations of employer misconduct, also known as “blocking charges,” to derail attempts by Urso and his colleagues to oust the union. Urso filed the most recent decertification petition near the end of August 2023, and instead of seeking to continue their control over the clearly dissatisfied Patella workers, Carpenters union officials finally moved to leave the facility.

Because New Jersey lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, Carpenters union officials had the power to force Urso and his coworkers to pay at least some union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs. In contrast, in states with Right to Work laws, union bosses can’t enter agreements with employers that force employees to fork over a portion of their paychecks to the union just to get or keep a job.

Carpenters Union Used Unproven Allegations Against Management to Block Employees from Voting

“Carpenters union bosses completely ignored our wishes for years, and apparently thought violating our rights and continuing to collect dues was better than simply letting us vote on whether we thought they deserved to stay,” Urso commented. “It’s extremely unfair that Carpenters officials were able to manipulate NLRB rules and processes for as long as they did to keep us trapped under union ‘representation’ that we opposed, but we didn’t give up and we’re glad we’re finally out.”

After Urso submitted the first employee-backed decertification petition in July 2021, an election did occur, but the ballots were never tallied after Carpenters officials filed “blocking charges” against the employer. Carpenters union bosses stopped a vote from occurring at all after Urso’s second attempt, again using “blocking charges.” Patella management settled the charges in February, but afterward Carpenters union officials did not request any bargaining sessions with the employer.

The Carpenters union’s disclaimer of interest followed Urso’s third petition. Now that the NLRB has certified the disclaimer, Urso and his colleagues are finally free of the unwanted union.

Biden NLRB Seeks to Empower Union Officials While Undermining Workers Who Seek Votes

Urso and his colleagues’ hard-fought victory comes as the Biden NLRB in Washington, D.C., is attempting to make it even more difficult for workers to obtain votes to remove unwanted unions, while giving union officials more tools to gain power in a workplace without a vote. The NLRB will soon issue a final rule overturning the Election Protection Rule, a Foundation-backed 2020 reform which made commonsense improvements to the decertification process.

The Rule’s repeal will grant union officials even greater power to use “blocking charges” to stop union decertification elections from happening. The repeal will also block workers from seeking a union decertification vote for a year after union bosses attempt to impose unionization by “card check.”

The card check process lets union officials bypass the NLRB’s traditional secret ballot vote procedures and instead allege majority support by collecting union authorization cards directly from workers – often using coercive or intimidating tactics. Foundation attorneys are currently aiding a group of paramedics and EMTs in Sonora and Groveland, California, who were unionized by card check only to vote to remove Steelworkers union bosses a few months later.

“Instead of defending the individual rights of workers across the country who are seeking to vote out union officials they oppose, the Biden NLRB is instead trying to make it harder than ever for workers to obtain an election,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As Mr. Urso, his colleagues, and countless other workers can attest, the NLRB process for workers to remove a union they oppose is already far too difficult.”

“The Biden NLRB’s continued moves to stifle worker decertification efforts demonstrate yet again that they and their union boss allies are focused on gaining greater control over workers and their pocketbooks – not on employees’ freedom of association,” 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 about 200 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Sep 8, 2023 in News Releases