Maureen Madden is a bookkeeper at Lakeside Foods, a unionized independent grocery store located in greater Chicago. Early this March, Madden filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), cosigned by every other unionized employee at the store, asking that United Food and Commercials Workers (UFCW) Local 1456 be "decertified."
In plain English, that means that not a single one of the employees wanted UFCW officials to continue wielding monopoly power to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment.
If a decertification petition is signed by 30 percent or more of unionized employees, the NLRB is statutorily required to allow a vote over whether union officials get to keep their "exclusive" bargaining privileges.
But, a NLRB regional bureaucrat refused to honor Lakeside Foods employees’ petition simply because the store had recently switched ownership, even though no provision in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) indicates a union can keep its negotiating monopoly, against employees’ wishes, for up to three additional years due to an ownership change.
Another recent egregious instance of trampling on employees’ collective right to free themselves from an unwanted union occurred in April, when the NLRB in Washington D.C. unanimously upheld a NLRB regional director’s ruling denying roughly 228 employees at Caterpillar’s facility in York, Pennsylvania, an opportunity to vote to oust United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1182 union bosses from their workplace.
The NLRB thus affirmed that, in order to terminate the UAW monopoly at one facility in York, the workers there would be required, during a relatively brief interval when a contract was about to expire, to collect signatures from 30 percent of 5,000 Caterpillar employees working at a total of 11 facilities in four different states, only one of which is located in Pennsylvania!
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have assisted independent-minded employees in pursuing both of the cases just described here, and have already filed an appeal in the Illinois case.
But regardless of how these cases ultimately turn out, they are evidence of how pro-forced unionism bureaucrats have stacked the deck against the many American workers who are unionized against their will. The Lakeside Foods and Caterpillar cases make it easy to understand why, as a 2016 Heritage Foundation analysis showed, only about 6 percent of unionized private-sector employees nationwide actually ever voted to install or retain the union that is entrenched in their workplace.
Under American traditions of limited government, affiliation with a private organization is, the vast majority of the time, a purely personal decision.
It’s not a collective decision. For example, the mere fact that most businesses in a town choose to join the local Chamber of Commerce doesn’t give the Chamber monopoly power to speak on business issues before the town council, denying businesses that don’t join the right to speak for themselves.
Unfortunately, current federal labor law doesn’t grant workers the same choice that other Americans routinely expect, that is, the right to negotiate with other parties on matters that directly concern them, rather than have an agent they didn’t personally choose negotiate for them.
In theory, the NLRA and other federal statutes do recognize the right of employees to make a collective, rather than a personal, choice to have or not have a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent, dealing with the employer on compensation and work-rule issues.
But in practice, the NLRB bureaucrats and federal judges who are responsible for interpreting and implementing the NLRA have over the years made it extraordinarily difficult for employees who are subject to union monopoly bargaining to band together to get out from under Big Labor’s control.
In adopting revisions to federal labor law more than 70 years ago, Congress declared its intent was to protect workers’ right to unionize or to decline to do so. And the simplest and best remedy for the roadblocks to union decertification set up by NLRB bureaucrats is for Congress to restore the worker’s individual right to refrain from joining or financially supporting an unwanted union.
This is the sole objective of the National Right to Work Act, legislation now pending in both chambers of Congress. The Act would not add one word to federal labor law, it would repeal all the current provisions that authorize forced union dues and fees as a condition of employment.
By passing this reform, Congress would go a long way towards creating a legal environment in which union officials have to serve workers, rather than vice versa.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee. Mix began working for the National Right to Work Committee in 1990, becoming Executive Vice President before being named President of both the Committee and the Foundation in 2003. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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