Request for Review: NLRB Region in Detroit has let IUOE officials delay employee vote using unproven allegations against employer to block election
Detroit, MI (April 22, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, Michigan-based employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, asking that they be allowed to exercise their right to hold a vote whether to oust the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 from their workplace.
Their request for review comes after NLRB Region 7 in Detroit held their petition for an election in abeyance based on unproven charges IUOE officials made, the majority more than one year ago, against Rieth-Riley. IUOE officials called a strike last July against Rieth-Riley, which has road construction projects across Michigan. However, many of its employees have exercised their right to continue working despite the union’s strike demands and are seeking to remove the union entirely.
The petition also comes after the NLRB amended its rules regarding how the agency deals with “blocking charges,” which are filed by union officials against employers in an attempt to stop rank-and-file employees from voting the union out.
The NLRB’s new rules acknowledge the inherent unfairness of the previous system, and in most circumstances will permit employees to have a vote despite union “blocking charges.” In the past, union officials could stay in power by blocking workers’ votes for months or even years while often unrelated allegations against employers were litigated. The new rule is set to go into effect this August, after being delayed two months due to what the Board said are COVID-19 concerns.
The employee who filed the union decertification petition, Rayalan Kent, recounts in his request for review that he and more than 30 percent of his fellow employees first tried to exercise their right to vote out IUOE Local 324 in March, when they submitted a petition for such a vote to NLRB Region 7. At that point, IUOE officials and Rieth-Riley had been bargaining for well over a year and had not yet finalized a contract, even after a July 2019 strike order from IUOE union bosses.
Although the petition has more than enough employee signatures to trigger the vote under the Board’s rules, Region 7 officials told Kent in an email that the election would be delayed “pending the investigation” of charges filed by IUOE officials against the employer. However, the Region provided Kent no information regarding the charges or “why they rose to the requisite level to block the employees’ petition.” The request for review also points out that the exercise of Kent’s and his coworkers’ rights to a vote could be delayed “apparently indefinitely” due to COVID-19 related delays in “blocking charge” cases.
According to the request for review, the three “blocking charges” filed by union bosses against Rieth-Riley allege behavior that took place almost two years ago in some instances and have no “causal connection” to the employees’ decertification petition. The Board’s delay of the election based on these unproven charges, the request argues, denies Rieth-Riley employees their right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to vote out a union they disapprove of.
To vindicate the employees’ rights, especially in light of the new rule regarding “blocking charges,” the request asks the NLRB to “order Region 7 to proceed to a secret-ballot election without further delay.” The request points out that Region 7’s decision to continue blocking this election ignores “Petitioner and his fellow employees’ desire to be free from Local 324’s representation” and sacrifices “the employees’ free choice rights to an unpopular union’s claims.”
When it issued the new rule earlier this month, the NLRB cited dozens of times comments the Right to Work Foundation had submitted earlier this year. Those comments pointed out that the NLRB’s old rules regarding “blocking charges” served only to keep union bosses in power while forbidding employees from exercising their right to vote to eliminate unwanted unions, were merely the product of forced unionism-friendly board decisions, and were not required by the NLRA.
Kent and his coworkers are not the only Michigan workers dealing with election delays from NLRB Region 7. Lansing, MI transportation worker Sandy Harris is also asking the NLRB in Washington to apply the new rules regarding “blocking charges” to allow a vote to remove Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) bosses to occur at her workplace. As with Kent’s case, the vote was postponed without even a hearing as to whether the union’s charges have merit or if they have a causal connection to the employees’ petition for an election.
“These cases show again how union officials, often with assistance of NLRB Region officials, have abused the NLRB’s ‘blocking charge’ policy to nullify workers’ right under federal law to vote out unwanted unions,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB in Washington must take immediate action to protect employees’ free choice rights by not only reversing the decision to delay implementation of the new rule, but also by applying the new rule to all cases currently blocked under the old ‘blocking charge’ policy.”
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.