News Story

Federal Official Would Deprive These Workers Of Right To Fire Their Union

They’re appealing after he shut down their union decertification vote

Workers on a West Michigan road construction project who sought and won the right to seek the decertification of their union have filed an emergency appeal with the National Labor Relations Board. This comes after the election was quashed by an NLRB official on Nov. 9, just hours before the votes were to be counted.

The decision to halt the election, which came after months of legal wrangling between employees of Rieth-Riley and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324, was made by NLRB Regional Director Terry Morgan.

Lawyers for the dissident employees said Morgan’s ruling, based on allegations of unfair labor practices against Rieth-Riley, directly contradicts NLRB policy.

The employees “have already had to endure many months of union boss stonewalling just to exercise their right to vote out an unpopular union,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

NLRB policy, which was updated this year, “clearly delineates why employees’ right to vote should not be delayed or hindered by unproven or unrelated union accusations against an employer,” Mix said.

Morgan, in her decision to block vote-counting, said a causal connection had been made between the allegations of unfair labor practices and the decertification petitions.

NRTW Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens said unions regularly use the filing of unfair labor practice allegations as a tactic to prohibit or delay votes on union decertification. He said this was a tactic the recently updated NLRB policy on so-called “blocking charges” was intended to address.

Semmens said he was hopeful the board would act relatively quickly to reverse the regional director’s order to quash the vote count.

A representative of Local 324 said Monday afternoon that no one was immediately available to comment on the case.

Rieth-Riley, one of the state’s largest road construction operations, has been the locus of a long-running labor dispute over the use of nonunion subcontractors, and Local 324 went out on strike there in 2019. The company has continued to operate with replacement workers and employees who crossed the picket line.

One of those employees said in August 2019 that “the union is using us as pawns in a power play to get their way.”

According to NLRB documents, about 160 affected employees — including current and replacement workers, plus strikers who had not returned to work — were eligible to vote in the decertification election.

NRTW Foundation’s Semmens said he was unsure how many had voted in the decertification election (which was conducted by mail because of COVID precautions). He added, “We may never know if they won’t count the votes.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.