National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) initiating rulemaking to modify rules used to block workers’ right to escape union ranks
Washington, DC (January 9, 2020) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has just submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), urging it to issue a final rule to nix three arbitrary policies that union officials frequently manipulate to trap workers in union ranks despite a majority’s desire to oust the union from the workplace. The three policies are not statutory, but were created by past Board precedents. The comments, submitted by Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse, support all three changes the NLRB is currently considering in rulemaking. However, the comments advocate an important modification to the Board’s proposed change in how it deals with so-called “blocking charges.”
The NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy currently lets union bosses file unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against an employer to halt employee votes to decertify unions, even if the allegations against the employer have no connection to the decertification effort. The agency plans to eliminate that policy and replace it with one that lets decertification elections proceed while such charges are pending, but requires the results of the vote to be withheld until those charges are resolved.
The Foundation’s comments explain that the Board’s proposed “vote and impound” procedure does not fully address the blocking charge problem, because even after workers vote union officials could continue to trap them in unwanted representation by dragging out the ULP process to maintain monopoly bargaining powers for months or years before the vote can be announced. The comments point out that this will unfairly “frustrate and confuse employees who may have to wait years to see the election’s results.” Instead, the Foundation urges the Board to release vote tallies first to “decrease litigation and give parties greater information on whether to settle” unfair labor practice charge allegations unlikely to impact the election’s outcome.
Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal assistance to scores of workers faced with “blocking charges,” most recently a group of Alaskan bus drivers who were freed in December 2019 from an unpopular Teamsters union after three years of attempts to remove it. One employee in that situation commented to the NLRB that Teamsters officials’ continued blocking of an election was “the most unfair and anti-democratic event” with which he had ever been involved.
The Foundation’s comments support the NLRB’s move to reinstate a process that allows employees and rival unions to file for secret-ballot elections after a union has been installed in a workplace through abuse-prone “card check” drives that bypass the NLRB-supervised election process. That critical modification to the so-called “voluntary recognition bar” policy would reinstate a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp NLRB decision. Despite thousands of workers using the process to secure secret ballot votes after being unionized through card checks, the Obama NLRB overturned Dana in 2010.
The Foundation’s comments also support the agency’s proposed rule to crack down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses are allowed to unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled for the worker, who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.
The Foundation has long called for the NLRB to abandon all barriers to employee decertification of unions which the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that the agency is charged with enforcing, does not mandate or even mention. In addition to the “blocking charge” policy and “voluntary recognition bar” that are subjects of the current rulemaking, the Foundation also opposes other arbitrary and non-statutory barriers to workers exercising their right to a decertification election.
“For too long the statutory right of employees under the National Labor Relations Act to vote out a union they oppose has been trampled by arbitrary NLRB policies that allow union bosses to maintain power despite the overwhelming opposition of rank-and-file workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Delays in the rulemaking process this Board has used to address these coercive policies means workers across the country continue to be trapped in unions they oppose every day, which is why the NLRB should now swiftly finalize these rules as the Foundation’s comments advocate.”
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.