Union officials using “contract bar” to trap worker and his coworkers in union ranks despite valid employee-backed petition seeking secret-ballot election
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San Juan, PR (January 8, 2021) – A San Juan-based guard employed by Ranger American Armored Services has just submitted a Request for Review to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. His Request asks that the full board take up his case seeking an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot election to remove the Private Security and Valuables Transit Professionals Union from his workplace. The Request for Review was filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The guard, Edwin Roman, asks the NLRB to review the Regional Director’s decision to block the election on the basis of the “contract bar,” a non-statutory NLRB policy which forbids employees from exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union for up to three years after an employer and union bosses have finalized a contract. The “contract bar” is not in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is charged with enforcing. As Roman’s Request for Review argues, it should be ended because it only serves to entrench union bosses even though the NLRA explicitly guarantees workers the right to hold secret-ballot elections to “decertify” unions opposed by the majority.
As detailed in the Request for Review, on November 18, 2020, Roman submitted a petition signed by the requisite number of his coworkers needed to trigger an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot decertification election at his workplace. The Request for Review lists opposition to the “Union’s representation, its contract, and its requirement that” employees pay dues to union bosses or be fired as reasons that Roman filed the petition with his colleagues’ support. At this point, Roman and his coworkers had already been working under the current monopoly bargaining contract for about a year.
On December 21, 2020, the Director of NLRB Region 12 in Tampa, Florida, dismissed Roman’s petition at union officials’ behest, claiming that the “contract bar” prevents this decertification attempt. This prompted Roman to appeal his case to the full NLRB.
Roman’s Request for Review points out that the contract bar “has no basis in the text of” the NLRA, and that the NLRB’s original interpretations of the statute favored “full freedom of association and foreclos[ed] any contract bar.” According to the Request for Review, the contract bar only came about as the result of later union boss-friendly decisions by the Board.
The request also contends that the “contract bar contradicts the [NLRA’s] well-established ‘bedrock principles of employee free choice and majority rule’” by allowing a union to force its representation on employees “even in the face of objective evidence proving the union has lost majority support.” It also points out that the only restriction on workers’ right to hold a decertification election actually provided in the NLRA is the one-year “bar” after an election, making the non-statutory three-year “contract bar” a particularly egregious restriction on workers’ rights under the Act.
Roman and his colleagues are not the only employees fighting for the overturn of the “contract bar” with Foundation legal assistance. Delaware Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa and his coworkers are currently waiting for the NLRB to rule on their case challenging United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses’ similar attempts to block their right to vote the union out.
In that case UFCW officials, despite receiving a decision from an NLRB Regional Director permitting the employees’ requested vote because the union contract contained an invalid forced dues clause, still claim that the “contract bar” should apply and that the Mountaire workers’ already-cast ballots should be destroyed. When the union asked the full NLRB to review the Region’s order, Cruz Sosa filed a brief arguing that if the Board granted the review it should use the opportunity to review the entire non-statutory “contract bar” policy, which the Board is doing.
“The ‘contract bar’ undermines one of the fundamental objectives of federal labor law: employee free choice. It makes rank-and-file employees prisoners of an unpopular union, merely because union honchos and an employer struck a contract between themselves,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This inevitably creates an environment in which, as Mr. Roman and his coworkers can certainly attest, it’s impossible to hold self-serving union bosses accountable because workers are denied the right to vote them out for three years.”
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.