Washington, DC (March 24, 2021) – Selbyville, DE-based Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa has objected to a settlement proposed by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 5 officials in his case charging United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 union bosses with imposing an illegal dues provision on him and his coworkers.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Cruz Sosa’s objections argue that the settlement proffered by NLRB Region 5 “provides inadequate remedies to the unit employees,” on all of whom UFCW officials enforced a contract clause which unlawfully requires all workers to pay dues immediately upon hiring or be fired.
Federal law stipulates that new hires be given 30 days before any mandatory dues requirements are imposed on them. Because Delaware lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, Cruz Sosa and his colleagues can be required to pay some reduced union fees as a condition of keeping their jobs after the 30-day period.
NLRB Region 5 proposed the settlement while NLRB Acting General Counsel Peter Ohr has directly or indirectly sought to curtail several other Foundation cases for independent-minded workers seeking to free themselves from illegal forced dues or other coercive union boss practices. Many of Ohr’s actions attempt to reverse work that had been done by his predecessor, Senate-confirmed General Counsel Peter Robb, to defend workers’ individual rights.
Just last week, Foundation attorneys opposed Ohr’s move to return West Virginia Kroger employee Shelby Krocker’s case, which is fully briefed before the NLRB in D.C., to NLRB Region 6 in Pittsburgh, where an insufficient settlement would be foisted on her and her coworkers. Krocker is challenging dues checkoff cards distributed by UFCW bosses which falsely claim that they “MUST BE SIGNED,” violating federal law’s requirement that authorizations of direct dues deductions from workers’ paychecks must be strictly voluntary. Robb had sustained Krocker’s charges after NLRB Region 6 initially dismissed them.
In the Mountaire Farms situation, Ohr in February withdrew a Robb-filed brief defending Cruz Sosa and his coworkers’ right to vote UFCW Local 27 bosses out of their workplace. UFCW lawyers claim that a non-statutory NLRB policy called the “contract bar” should have blocked Cruz Sosa’s otherwise valid petition signed by his colleagues requesting a “decertification election.” The “contract bar” entrenches unions for up to three years after management and union officials broker a contract.
Although NLRB Region 5 ruled that the vote should proceed because of the contract’s invalid forced dues clause, UFCW lawyers demanded review by the full NLRB, and now seek to have the NLRB destroy the ballots workers have already cast in the election. The NLRB decided to review the case, but announced that the entire “contract bar” policy would be brought under scrutiny. This case is still pending before the full NLRB.
Cruz Sosa’s current filing contends that NLRB Region 5’s proposed settlement on the issue of the illegal dues clause “seeks to ferret out for relief what is likely to be a minuscule handful of employees” instead of giving all employees under UFCW Local 27’s control at Mountaire “the right to claim their dues money back to the start of” the contract and ensuring the clause is never enforced again. This is requested because, based on NLRB Region 5’s own ruling, the forced dues clause is “facially invalid” and “all employees have been adversely impacted” by it.
Cruz Sosa’s attorneys also argue that the settlement, which would be conditional on the NLRB’s finding in the pending decertification case that the UFCW’s forced dues clause is invalid, forecloses the possibility of the relief requested for all employees even if the Board affirms the Region’s ruling that the clause is invalid. “This one-way ratchet is patently unfair to the 800 employees in this unit and completely one-sided,” Foundation attorneys assert.
This dispute highlights the NLRB General Counsel’s Office and Regional Directors’ shift to reinforcing the coercive privileges of union bosses since President Biden installed Peter Ohr as NLRB Acting General Counsel. Ohr was put in after Biden took the unprecedented and legally dubious step of firing Robb, Ohr’s predecessor, nearly eleven months before the end of his Senate-confirmed term.
“This is an obvious attempt by so-called ‘Acting’ NLRB General Counsel Peter Ohr to ensure President Biden’s union boss cronies don’t have to face the music when they violate workers’ individual rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Cruz Sosa and his coworkers were all harmed by this plainly unlawful dues clause, and a proper remedy must include relief for all of them.”