NLRB Region 7 in Detroit abruptly issued order dismissing workers’ petition for the vote just hours before the ballots were scheduled to be counted
Detroit, MI (November 16, 2020) – Employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company have just filed an emergency appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, asking the Board to overturn an NLRB Regional Director’s last minute decision cancelling the workers’ vote whether to remove International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 from their workplace. The Region issued this order just hours before the ballots were to be counted and after the workers’ votes had all been cast.
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represent the construction workers in the case without charge. This is the latest development in a months-long effort by Rieth-Riley workers to eject unpopular IUOE officials, in which employee Rayalan Kent and his coworkers have submitted two successive petitions to obtain a decertification election.
Although an election by mail finally began last month, on November 9, mere hours before the NLRB Detroit Region was to count the votes, the Regional Director issued a decision dismissing Kent and his coworkers’ petitions. Absent action by the NLRB in Washington, DC, the workers’ votes in their long-sought decertification election will be destroyed and never counted.
Kent submitted his latest petition for a vote to remove the union in August, with signatures from well over the number of his coworkers required by law to trigger such a vote. This petition was submitted in the hopes that new protections from the NLRB in Washington, DC, which became effective at the end of July, would better safeguard from union legal maneuvering their right to vote out the union. Kent’s Foundation-provided attorneys also invoked those reforms in a Request for Review submitted this April in defense of his first decertification petition, which the Board denied.
The NLRB Regional Director in Detroit dismissed Kent and his coworkers’ two petitions by citing unproven allegations IUOE officials have made against Rieth-Riley management in so-called “blocking charges.”
The Region’s decision flies in the face of reforms the NLRB enacted through the rulemaking process that largely eliminate “blocking charges” as a means for delaying a vote. The reforms instead mandate a system in which employees usually can exercise immediately their right to vote on whether a union should stay before the NLRB deals with any unfair labor practice charges filed against their employer.
The purpose of the reforms, which heavily cited comments Foundation attorneys submitted to the NLRB, is to stop union officials from imposing themselves on dissatisfied workers for months or even years while often-unrelated union allegations against employers are litigated. The NLRB’s final rule, in response to arguments made in the Foundation’s comments, specifically requires that votes be tallied and results announced unless the charges allege that the employer has improperly aided the decertification petition, and even then the votes will be counted unless a complaint against the employer has been issued within sixty days.
Nevertheless, the NLRB Regional Director declined to even hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there is a causal link between IUOE union bosses’ claims and Kent and his coworkers’ effort to remove the union, claiming that the Region’s “investigation” was sufficient and takes priority over the NLRB’s new rules regarding “blocking charges.”
The workers’ appeal points out that, “even under the old rules, the Region is misapplying the law by dismissing the petitions.” It explains that the “unfair labor practice allegations do not relate to the election itself. Further, the Region did not conduct a hearing before it found a causal connection between the Employer’s alleged conduct and the decertification petitions.”
Commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix: “Rieth-Riley employees have already had to endure many months of union boss stonewalling just to exercise their right to vote out an unpopular union. NLRB Region 7’s current decision to stifle further the employees’ will makes the whole situation even more outrageous and rigged in favor of union power. The NLRB in Washington should immediately overturn this decision and order the Region to count the ballots as NLRB rules dictate.”
Mix added, “NLRB Region 7’s decision completely ignores the amended rule the NLRB in Washington issued in July, which clearly delineates why employees’ right to vote should not be delayed or hindered by unproven or unrelated union accusations against an employer. We will continue to fight for Mr. Kent and his coworkers until their long-overdue right to free themselves from the unwanted Operating Engineers union is vindicated.”
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.