by Bruce Walker
The National Labor Relations Board in Washington on Friday granted the petition of Michigan construction employees to defend their right to vote union bargaining representatives from the workplace.
The NLRB decision Friday overturns a November ruling by the Detroit NLRB, which dismissed two petitions filed by Rieth-Riley Construction Company employee Rayalan Kent and coworkers in which they requested a decertification vote against the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324.
Kent and about 30% of Kent’s coworkers had requested in April and August to vote whether to drop IUOE Local 324 as its bargaining representative.
The election by mail started in October but, on Nov. 9, 3½ hours before the Detroit NLRB Region began counting votes, the NLRB regional director dismissed Kent’s and his coworkers’ petitions and ruled ballots to remove the union not be counted and, further, should be destroyed.
Friday’s Washington NLRB ruling overturns the Detroit NLRB ruling, allowing a review of Kent and his coworkers’ petitions.
Kent and his fellow plaintiffs are represented by the nonprofit National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF) Legal Defense Foundation.
“While we are pleased that Region 7’s decision to destroy Mr. Kent and his coworkers’ ballots will now be reviewed, years of litigation should not be required just so workers can exercise their right to vote out union bosses they oppose,” NRWF President Mark Mix said in a news release. “We proudly stand with Mr. Kent and all workers who seek to exercise this right without union boss interference.”
According to the NRWF, the Detroit NLRB violated labor law when Local 323 union officials filed what are called as “blocking charges.”
In an email to The Center Square, NRWF Vice President Patrick Semmens explained: “Federal law gives workers the right to vote out a union they oppose in a decertification election, but union officials have long used blocking charges to delay or stop entirely these votes from taking place.”
Semmens continued: “Essentially, union lawyers file unproven and often completely unsubstantiated allegations against the company which are used as pretense to block workers from voting against the union. The workers who asked for the decertification petition are not accused of any wrongdoing but are still blocked from exercising their right to remove the union while the NLRB processes the union boss allegations against the workers’ employer.”
Semmens noted the previous rule incentivized union officials to “file frivolous charges and then drag out their adjudication just to hold onto power, which is why last year the Trump NLRB issued a rule to limit union officials’ use of such blocking charges.”
The NLRB’s final rule requires that votes be tallied and results announced unless the charges allege the employer has improperly aided the decertification petition: Even then, the votes still will be counted unless a complaint against the employer has been issued within 60 days.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square.