The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2021 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Unpopular Teamsters officials voted out of California, New Jersey workplaces
Reforms urged by Foundation staff attorneys eased Miguel Valle and his coworkers’ near-unanimous effort to vote out unpopular Teamsters officials, who tried to use “blocking charges,” ultimately to no avail.
WASHINGTON, DC – Workers in California and New Jersey who were previously subject to Teamsters bosses’ monopoly bargaining authority have freed themselves from unwanted union control.
The workers received free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, and benefited from rule changes at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington pushed for by the Foundation.
In California, Eliseo Haro, an employee at Los Angeles-based KWK Trucking, Inc., submitted a decertification petition with the NLRB because he and his coworkers were being ignored by Teamsters bosses. As Haro puts it, “The union never came in to talk to us, or negotiate a contract, or represent us. They disappeared.”
Haro’s petition was signed by nearly 80 percent of the workers in the 119-employee bargaining unit and called for an NLRB-supervised decertification election, in which KWK employees could vote out the unpopular union officials.
Rather than face an overwhelming defeat in the decertification election, Teamsters bosses chose to walk away. The union disclaimed interest in the unit, and NLRB Region 21 revoked Local 986’s certification as the workers’ monopoly bargaining agent.
New Jersey Decertification Effort Succeeds Despite Union Stall Tactics
In Cinnaminson, New Jersey, Teamsters officials did not immediately leave when a decertification petition was filed by Miguel Valle and his coworkers at a branch of XPO Logistics. Instead, Teamsters lawyers used nearly two months of unnecessary court proceedings to delay the election.
They demanded the vote be held in person at the Teamsters union hall. Foundation attorneys argued that the union lawyers’ requests were merely an effort to delay the vote. Ultimately, as expected, the NLRB’s Regional Director ruled that the election would be conducted by mail.
When Valle and his coworkers finally had their election, they voted 16-2 to remove Teamsters bosses from their workplace.
Foundation-Backed Rule Changes Reduce Needless Election Delays
For workers, just getting a decertification election is often difficult. In some cases, union bosses have created multi-year delays to stymie decertification efforts, trapping workers under union monopoly “representation” and often forced-dues payments they oppose, while they wait for a vote.
Union officials frequently attempt to delay or block decertification votes by filing “blocking charges,” unfair labor practice charges that can be used to hold up an election, even when they have nothing to do with the employees’ dissatisfaction with the union.
Union officials’ ability to use this tactic to block or delay votes has been limited by recent NLRB rulemaking, finalized in 2020. Under the NLRB’s new policy, which draws on comments filed by the National Right to Work Foundation, union charges cannot indefinitely stall employee votes, and in most instances votes occur without delay.
Additionally, as the Foundation advocated in its comments, instead of ballots being impounded for months or even years while “blocking charges” are resolved, the NLRB modified its original proposed rule so that in most cases ballots are tallied and the results are announced after employees vote.
“Union bosses can stick around for years, even when they face overwhelming opposition from rank-and-file workers, because of the legal barriers that protect union officials from decertification votes,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse.
“Thanks to Foundation-backed reforms to the NLRB’s ‘blocking charge’ policy, union officials’ ability to trap workers in union ranks through legal trickery despite overwhelming opposition has been significantly curtailed.”