The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union and NLRB colluded to stop worker vote with unsupported allegations

Shloime Spira and his coworkers fought for months against IUJAT union allegations designed to stop him and his coworkers from ousting the union — only to see NLRB officials admit there was no evidence at all to support them.

NEW YORK, NY – National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) bureaucrats frequently rush to advance flimsy union boss allegations (or “blocking charges”) as a justification for stopping or delaying employees’ efforts to remove an unwanted union. Yet as a recent Foundation decertification victory for a group of workers in New York City demonstrates, sometimes NLRB officials get especially creative when it comes to assisting union bosses’ efforts to trap workers in unionization they oppose.

Take the obstacles Shloime Spira and his colleagues, who work for Brooklyn, NY-based contracting company Horsepower Electric, faced in their effort to remove the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades (IUJAT) from their workplace. In December 2022, Spira submitted a petition asking the NLRB for a vote to decertify the union.

Labor Board Stalled Litigation to Keep Union in Power

The petition contained the requisite number of employee signatures to trigger such a vote. While the vote eventually took place in March 2023, NLRB bureaucrats sat for months on charges that IUJAT officials had levied against Horsepower Electric management, which delayed the ballot count and permitted IUJAT union officials to stay in power. Months later, following litigation at the NLRB and in federal court, it became apparent the NLRB lacked any evidence that could justify that delay.

Spira received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in defending his coworkers’ right under federal law to remove the union, and in suing the NLRB for the delays. Only at the end of 2023, after a year of delays and litigation, did IUJAT union officials finally back down and file a “disclaimer of interest” to end their control over the Horsepower Electric workers.

“While my colleagues and I are pleased with this result, it’s simply ridiculous that the NLRB sat on our ballots for so long over union charges that were apparently meritless,” Spira commented on his experience. “The NLRB is supposed to protect employees’ right to choose whether or not they want a union, not delay that process indefinitely to maintain union officials’ power.”

Federal Court Action ‘Shocks’ Labor Board into Ending Delays

Union “blocking charges” contain claims of employer misconduct that are usually unverified and often have no connection to employees’ desire to vote out the union. NLRB officials inexplicably refused to hold a hearing or otherwise advance the IUJAT’s “blocking charge” case for months, effectively using it as a pretense for delaying the vote count in Spira and his coworkers’ effort to remove the union.

The delayed ballot count meantIUJAT union bosses stayed in power, and also meant that forced union dues continued to flow out of Spira and his colleagues’ paychecks. Because New York lacks Right to Work protections that make union affiliation and financial support strictly voluntary, union bosses could force the Horsepower Electric workers to pay the union as a condition of keeping their jobs.

Eventually, the NLRB faced a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York, alleging due process violations because the delay in the “blocking charge” case was being used to justify the delay of the decertification ballot count. That case, initially bought by the employer, was soon joined by Spira who successfully intervened with the help of his Foundation attorneys. The District Court demanded an explanation from the NLRB about the delay.

NLRB Agents Found Zero Witnesses to Back Union ‘Blocking Charges’

Faced with the threat of a federal court order to proceed with the ballot count, NLRB officials finally moved forward on the “blocking charge” case. But just minutes before a December 2023 hearing the NLRB had scheduled in the case — which Spira’s Foundation-provided attorneys had traveled all the way to New York to attend — NLRB lawyers conceded they could produce no witnesses to testify in support of the union’s charges against Horsepower Electric.

The NLRB formally dropped its complaint against Horsepower Electric that very day, clearing the way for the ballots to be counted. To avoid facing a vote result that would have very likely been an embarrassing loss, IUJAT union officials announced a “disclaimer of interest” that would finally result in the union leaving. With the union conceding defeat, both the NLRB and federal cases surrounding the union decertification election wrapped up in January.

Workers’ Struggle Shows NLRB Needs Reform

“That union officials were so easily able to manipulate NLRB processes to block Mr. Spira and his colleagues from exercising their basic right to choose whether they want union representation shows that the agency is desperately in need of reform,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “It is outrageous that it took a federal court case to force the NLRB to admit that it had no evidence to back up union officials’ allegations that were being used to trap workers in a union they opposed.

“Worker free choice is supposed to be the center of the National Labor Relations Act. Foundation attorneys will continue to defend this principle, even as the Biden Labor Board continues to grant union officials sweeping new powers to coerce workers into union ranks,” Semmens added.

Posted on May 30, 2024 in Newsletter Articles