The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses lied to metal workers and covertly signed forced-dues contract to keep grip on power

Metal workers have the right under federal labor law to vote out unwanted union representation

In NLRB documents, Steelworkers union officials openly defended their deception of employees, calling such behavior “irrelevant” to whether they should remain in power.

FRANKLIN, PA – Workers under the thumb of union bosses have many reasons to oppose the union’s “representation.” It could be they oppose a bad contract the union negotiated, or maybe it is the union’s divisive political activity for candidates they oppose. Whatever the reason, workers have a right under federal labor law to vote to free themselves of such unwanted union “representation.”

But federal labor law also has no shortage of workarounds for union bosses bent on clinging to their monopoly bargaining power over workers. Kerry Hunsberger and her coworkers at Latrobe Specialty Steel’s Franklin, PA, facility are currently defending their right to throw out unpopular Steelworkers union officials, after the union chiefs secretly signed a contract workers had voted down twice.

Steelworkers Officials Tried to Dodge Employee Accountability

Steelworkers chiefs did so to activate a so-called “contract bar” and remain in power at the plant when they knew a decertification election was coming. Steelworkers officials held two ratification votes to make workers think they had control over whether the contract went into effect. But in reality, union officials have no legal obligation under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal statute that governs private sector labor relations, to even conduct such a ratification vote, much less heed the workers’ actual vote tally.

The pro-union boss National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) created out of whole cloth the “contract bar” policy. It immunizes union officials from employee-backed attempts to vote out a union for up to three years after union bosses and management finalize a contract — even a contract that isn’t supported by a majority of workers.

Hunsberger’s petition asking the NLRB to hold a vote to remove the union contains the requisite number of signatures under NLRB rules, but union officials argue the “contract bar” should block the election anyway.

Union Bosses Ignored Two Votes by Workers Rejecting Forced-Dues Contract

The 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.

According to documents and transcripts filed with the NLRB, when Steelworkers union officials discovered a decertification petition was circulating, they secretly and hurriedly signed the unpopular 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.

The slapdash contract lacked basic In NLRB documents, Steelworkers union officials openly defended their deception of employees, calling such behavior “irrelevant” to whether they should remain in power. elements, like start and end dates. Even though the union now claims this contract was immediately in effect on July 28, union officials held a new employee ratification vote on August 1, encouraging workers to “ratify” the contract. But the union bosses never told the workers their “vote” was a meaningless sham because union officials had already signed the forced-dues contract in secret.

Hunsberger’s decertification petition was filed at 2:00 PM on August 1, just hours before the sham contract vote occurred. As with the previous vote, the workers rejected the contract by a lopsided margin. But later that night, at around 9:00 PM, union officials suddenly announced to the employer that the contract was already in effect and the employee ratification “vote” was irrelevant because of the union bosses’ covert signing on July 28.

In sworn testimony, one union boss admitted that Steelworkers union bosses execute contracts despite employees voting them down, and that union officials deceived the Latrobe workers and ignored their votes in this case “to protect the integrity of the union.” Apparently the Steelworkers bosses’ lust for monopoly bargaining power and compulsory union payments takes precedence over the actual wishes of the rank-and-file workers union officials purport to “represent.”

‘Contract Bar’ Encourages Unions to Force Through Unpopular Contracts

“Steelworkers union bosses drew up a contract that my coworkers and I hated, so naturally we wanted them out of our workplace and out of our pocketbooks. But to add insult to injury, they apparently didn’t even think they owed us a duty of honesty,” said Hunsberger.

“This entire ordeal has been incredibly frustrating and we are grateful for the help of the National Right to Work Foundation in defending our right to vote the union out.”

Kerry Hunsberger’s Foundationbacked brief defending her and her coworkers’ rights states that the Steelworkers’ contract ploy is “nothing more than a smokescreen, concocted by a desperate and unpopular union to entrench itself and bar employee free choice” under federal law.

“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 get rid of so-called union ‘representation,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “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 disregarded their votes simply to protect union power. The case also demonstrates that there is no such thing as ‘union democracy’ in America.”

Posted on Feb 9, 2023 in Newsletter Articles