NLRB rejects union decertification effort at poultry plant
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board has rejected an effort to decertify the labor union representing workers at a southern Delaware processing plant.
In a 3-1 ruling Wednesday, the board overturned a regional NLRB director’s ruling last year that the decertification effort was not barred by an existing collective bargaining agreement for workers at Mountaire Farms’ Selbyville facility because the labor agreement contained a “clearly unlawful” union-security clause.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 appealed the director’s ruling, saying the security clause at issue was not unlawful on its face and instead was capable of “a lawful interpretation.”
The board agreed, concluding that the clause was, at most, “ambiguous” regarding its retroactive application to incumbent nonmember employees.
The regional director interpreted the clause in question as denying nonunion employees who were working for Mountaire when a new collective bargaining agreement was executed in February 2019 a 30-day grace period required under federal law before having to pay union dues. The clause stated that nonunion members had 31 days from the beginning of their employment, not 31 days from the date of the collective bargaining agreement, to become union members.
The board ruled that, because the union-security clause was subject to interpretation and not clearly unlawful, the decertification effort was prohibited under a “contract bar” doctrine that prevents workers from holding a decertification vote for up to three years after a collective bargaining agreement is reached.
The finding means that ballots that were cast by Mountaire workers last summer, but which were impounded pending the results of the labor board review, will not be counted.
The National Right to Work Foundation, which provided legal aid to Oscar Cruz Sosa, the Mountaire employee who spearheaded the decertification effort, called the NLRB’s decision “appalling.”
“The board just steamrolled the statutory rights of almost 1,000 Delaware poultry workers who joined together to request a vote to remove a union they oppose, as well as millions of workers nationwide,” said foundation president Mark Mix. “The National Labor Relations Act purports to be about the rights of employees, but as this decision shows more often than not it is a protection racket for incumbent union officials.”
Mountaire issued a statement describing the board’s ruling as “a sad day for employee rights and free elections in this country.”
“We are disappointed for our employees who courageously stood up to the union and fought for their rights,” the company said. “This decision is only a delay of what we believe will be inevitable: a real vote that will show our employees’ true feelings regarding union representation.”
A union representative did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.