Workers petitioned for election to oust union after first vote against contract, but union boss secretly signed unpopular contract in July anyway to maintain power
Franklin, PA (September 19, 2022) – Workers at Latrobe Specialty Steel’s facility (also known as Carpenter Technology) in Franklin, PA, are fighting Steelworkers union officials’ attempt to trap them under a union contract workers voted down twice. Their effort follows union bosses’ secret “ratification” of the unpopular contract despite telling workers that their votes would determine whether the contract would go into effect. Latrobe Specialty Steel employees are seeking to “decertify,” i.e. vote out, the Steelworkers Union with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Kerry Hunsberger leads an employee push to vote out the Steelworkers union at Latrobe Specialty Steel. Hunsberger’s attorneys filed a brief this week at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) arguing that union officials concocted an improbable contract ratification story to avoid being voted out by the workers they claim to “represent.” The union bosses admit to signing the unpopular contract behind workers’ backs in an attempt to trigger the NLRB’s so-called “contract bar” policy. The “contract bar” arbitrarily immunizes unions from employee decertification votes for up to three years after a contract between union and company officials is finalized.
Steelworkers Union Officials Signed Unpopular Contract to Avoid Being Voted Out by Workers
Latrobe Specialty Steel workers first voted July 25 on the contract drawn up by Steelworkers union officials. The workers soundly rejected the contract, and Hunsberger began collecting employee signatures for a “decertification petition” shortly afterwards. The NLRB will administer a union decertification election among the workers of a facility if the petition contains the signatures of 30% or more of the employees.
According to documents and transcripts filed with the NLRB, when Steelworkers union officials discovered a decertification petition was circulating, they secretly signed the disfavored contract on July 28, without telling the employees or the employer, in an attempt to activate the “contract bar” rule and avoid being voted out.
In their haste to enact the employee-rejected contract to trigger the “contract bar,” union officials didn’t even finalize critical details of the contract like the start and end dates. Even though the union claims this contract was supposedly in effect on July 28, union officials held a new employee ratification vote on August 1, encouraging workers to ratify the contract, but not telling them their “vote” was a meaningless formality because the contract was already signed and in effect.
Hunsberger submitted a valid decertification petition on August 1, just hours before the sham contract vote occurred. As with the previous vote, the workers again lopsidedly rejected the contract. But later that night, union officials suddenly announced to the employer that the contract was already in effect and the ratification vote was a nullity because of the union bosses’ covert signing on July 28. According to the trial transcript, one union boss admitted under oath that the Steelworkers union executes contracts despite employees voting them down, and that he did so in this case and ignored the employees’ vote against the contract “to protect the integrity of the union.” Apparently the Steelworkers bosses’ lust for monopoly bargaining power and compulsory union payments takes precedence over employee democracy.
In fact, the Steelworkers Union’s post-hearing brief openly admits that union officials “executed the contract on July 28 to… pre-empt the decertification petition circulating at the facility” and that the August 1 “vote was only taken as a courtesy to employees [and] was an attempt to obtain their blessing of the contract that the [union officials] had already executed.”
In the same brief union bosses doubled down on their deceptive practices, stating that “the Union’s representations to employees here are irrelevant… and the union was within its discretion to take a vote of its members and was not obligated to abide by the results of such a vote” (emphasis added).
Hunsberger now waits for Regional NLRB officials to decide if union bosses’ ploy to hastily “ratify” an incomplete and unpopular contract over the objections of multiple workers’ votes successfully blocked workers’ statutory right to a decertification vote.
Foundation President: “Contract Bar” Policy Encourages Anti-Democratic Gamesmanship by Union Bosses
Foundation attorneys’ brief defending Hunsberger and her coworkers’ right to vote the union out argues that the contract never took effect due to the lack of a discernible effective date as well as the lack of an employee vote in favor of ratification. The Foundation attorney’s brief argues that Steelworkers officials’ assertions that they entered into a binding contract are “nothing more than a smokescreen, concocted by a desperate and unpopular Union to entrench itself and bar employee free choice” by manipulating the “contract bar.”
“The ‘contract bar’ arbitrarily blocks, often for years, workers’ statutory right under federal law to vote out union officials they oppose. Worse, it encourages union officials to cynically impose a contract at all costs, especially when union bosses know rank-and-file workers would see such a contract as a reason to want to be free of so-called union ‘representation,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Immunizing union officials from being voted out by the workers they claim to ‘represent’ creates an incentive structure in which union boss power comes first and majority support among workers comes last.”
“This case presents an easy choice for the NLRB: defend the rights of rank-and-file workers or side with Steelworkers union officials who repeatedly misled those workers and twice disregarded their votes simply to protect union power and compulsory dues,” 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 around 250 cases nationwide per year.