Washington, DC (February 12, 2021) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, will hear Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employee Rayalan Kent and his coworkers’ case, following a Request for Review filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
This is the latest development in a months-long effort by Rieth-Riley Construction employees to exercise their right to vote unpopular International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union bosses out of their workplace.
In November 2020, Detroit NLRB officials ruled that the ballots that Kent and his coworkers had already cast in their vote to remove the union should be destroyed. That decision will now be reviewed. Even though Kent had submitted two valid petitions requesting a decertification vote, Detroit NLRB officials dismissed both petitions just minutes before the ballots were slated to be counted due to so-called “blocking charges” filed by union bosses.
Kent submitted his latest petition for a vote to remove the union in August 2020, with signatures from well over the number of his coworkers required by law to trigger such a vote. The petition was submitted in the hopes that new July 2020 protections set by the NLRB in Washington, DC, would better safeguard from union legal maneuvering their right to vote out the union. Kent’s Foundation-provided attorneys also invoked those reforms in a Request for Review submitted in April 2020 in defense of his first decertification petition, which the Board denied.
The NLRB Regional Director in Detroit dismissed Kent and his coworkers’ two petitions by citing unproven allegations IUOE officials have made against Rieth-Riley management in “blocking charges.”
According to Kent’s appeal, the Region’s decision ignored a recent NLRB rule that largely eliminated “blocking charges” as grounds for curtailing decertification votes. The reforms mandate that in nearly all cases workers’ requested ballot should proceed immediately, with the votes then promptly tallied before the NLRB deals with any “blocking charge” allegations union officials filed.
The purpose of the reforms, which heavily cited comments the Foundation submitted to the NLRB, is to stop union officials from maintaining monopoly bargaining power despite widespread worker opposition for months or even years while often-unrelated union allegations against employers are litigated.
The NLRB’s final rule, in response to arguments made in the Foundation’s comments, 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 sixty days.
Nevertheless, the NLRB Regional Director declined to even hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there is a link between IUOE union bosses’ claims and Kent and his coworkers’ effort to remove the union: Instead, she claimed that the Region’s “investigation” was sufficient and takes priority over the NLRB’s new rules regarding “blocking charges.”
The workers’ appeal pointed out that, “even under the old rules, the Region is misapplying the law by dismissing the petitions.” It explains that the union bosses’ “unfair labor practice allegations do not relate to the election itself. Further, the Region did not conduct a hearing before it found a causal connection between the Employer’s alleged conduct and the decertification petitions.”
“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,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We proudly stand with Mr. Kent and all workers who seek to exercise this right without union boss interference.”
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