San Francisco, Calif. (April 8, 2003) — Rejecting arguments from union lawyers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has affirmed the nearly unanimous vote of hundreds of Swissport Corporation employees to strip a major union of its power to force them to pay union dues as a job condition.
Last October, Swissport employees voted by a margin of 212-11 in the NLRB-supervised deauthorization election to remove the mandatory dues provision in the collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union District Lodge 190, Local 1414. Despite the overwhelming vote, however, IAM lawyers tried to overturn the election on the grounds that Swissport illegally intervened, but the NLRB rejected all of the union lawyers’ claims.
“These results show that even in Big Labor strongholds like San Francisco, workers overwhelmingly reject the notion of compulsory unionism,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation which provided free legal aid to the employees. “For workers in California, who do not enjoy the protection of a Right to Work Law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”
Led by Swissport worker Kirk Williams, the employees filed a petition to obtain an election under supervision of the NLRB. Williams decided to seek the deauthorization election after becoming frustrated that IAM union officials were indifferent to the needs of the rank-and-file.
In order to trigger the deauthorization election, Williams needed to obtain signatures from at least 30 percent his coworkers. Once that occurred, for the deauthorization to pass, Williams had to get an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit to vote “yes.” The requirement for an absolute majority established by the National Labor Relations Act is more difficult for employees to attain than the standard for certifying or decertifying a union, which requires only a majority of those actually voting.
Though federal law still denies the employees their right to bargain with their employer individually on their own merits, IAM union officials may no longer compel Swissport employees to pay for unwanted union representation.
“Union officials disdain the accountability that inherently flows from voluntary unionism,” stated Gleason. “Now, IAM officials will have no choice but to sell union membership on its merits, rather than using force.”