Appeal: Workers should not be trapped in union ranks and denied decertification votes when employer changes
Boise, ID (July 30, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Idaho-based Shamrock Foods delivery driver Curtis Thomason is appealing a decision by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 27 which dismissed a petition signed by him and a majority of his coworkers for a vote to remove Teamsters Local 483 union bosses from power at his workplace. Thomason’s appeal asks the full NLRB in Washington, D.C., to overturn the so-called “successor bar” doctrine, which blocks employees’ right to hold a vote to decertify a union for up to a year if a successor employer has recently taken over operations in a workplace.
According to the decision by Region 27, Shamrock Foods acquired operations in October 2019 at the two warehouses where Teamsters Local 483 union bosses held bargaining power. Shamrock began bargaining talks with Teamsters officials in December 2019. Thomason submitted a petition for a decertification vote signed by well over the threshold of employees necessary to initiate such an election on May 26, 2020. At that point, Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials still hadn’t finalized a monopoly bargaining contract, and hadn’t even discussed economic terms of a contract.
Region 27’s decision ruled that Thomason and his coworkers’ petition, because it was submitted “within six months of the first bargaining date” between Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials, should be blocked by the “successor bar.” This policy does not appear in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that the NLRB is charged with enforcing, but is instead the product of decisions by prior NLRB majorities favoring union bosses.
Thomason’s Foundation-backed appeal argues that the “successor bar” arbitrarily curbs employee free choice just to protect union officials from being ousted, saying “the successor bar is designed to protect incumbent unions and exalt their interests over Mr. Thomason’s and his co-workers’ free choice rights.” It also points out that “the successor bar’s paternalistic notion that employees suffer ‘anxiety’ in all corporate reorganizations, and are therefore incapable of deciding for themselves whether the incumbent union is worth keeping, is fatuous.”
In April, following several rounds of comments from the Foundation, the NLRB issued final rules substantially eliminating three other non-statutory policies that union bosses often manipulate to bar workers from exercising their right to vote out unpopular unions. Among the policies nixed was one that allowed union bosses to file “blocking charges” containing unrelated allegations of employer misconduct to block secret-ballot employee votes on whether to oust a union. NLRB regional offices often block employee votes following a “blocking charge” without even a hearing into whether the supposed employer conduct and employees’ disaffection with the union are linked.
“It is ridiculous that the NLRB has let union bosses block employees’ right to a secret-ballot vote on whether or not a union deserves to stay in power at their workplace based merely on a change in employers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “If anything, changes in ownership of a company should be automatic grounds for a decertification vote, because to the extent there was ever support for the union it was to deal with the previous employer, not the new ownership.”
“We urge the NLRB in Washington to immediately overturn this anti-worker ‘bar’ policy and ultimately do away with all non-statutory policies which stifle the right of rank-and-file workers to freely decide who their voice will be in the workplace,” Mix added.
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.