On July 30, 2020, Idaho-based Shamrock Foods delivery driver Curtis Thomason appealed a decision by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 27 which discarded a petition signed by him and a majority of his fellow workers for a vote to kick out Teamsters Local 483 union bosses from his workplace. Thomason’s appeal requests the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. to lift the so-called “successor bar” doctrine, which prevents employees’ right to hold a vote to decertify a union for up to a year if a successor employer has recently assumed operations in a workplace.
Per the Region 27 decision, Shamrock Foods took over operations in October 2019 at the two warehouses where Teamsters Local 483 union officials had bargaining power. In December 2019, Shamrock initiated bargaining talks with Teamsters leaders. Thomason filed a petition for a decertification vote which received enough signatures from employees to kick off an election on May 26, 2020. At the time, Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials still hadn’t come to an agreement on a monopoly bargaining contract and hadn’t even talked about the economic stipulations of a contract.
In Region 27’s decision, the arbiters ruled that because Thomason and his coworkers’ submitted the petition “within six months of the first bargaining date” between Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials it should have been blocked by the “successor bar.” This policy is not present in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that the NLRB is tasked with enforcing. Such a policy is the result of decisions by previous NLRB majority rulings that favored union bosses.
The Foundation provided legal aid to Thomason with regards to his appeal which argues that the “successor bar” arbitrarily infringes on workers’ free choice to oust union bosses from the workplace. In the complaint, the Foundation stated that “the successor bar is designed to protect incumbent unions and exalt their interests over Mr. Thomason’s and his co-workers’ free choice rights.” Additionally, it noted that “the successor bar’s paternalistic notion that employees suffer ‘anxiety’ in all corporate reorganizations, and are therefore incapable of deciding for themselves whether the incumbent union is worth keeping, is fatuous.”
In April, after several rounds of comments the Foundation made, the NLRB issued final rules which significantly eliminated three other non-statutory policies that union leaders frequently manipulate to prevent workers from exercising their right to vote to remove unpopular unions from the workplace. Of the policies that were scrapped, was one that let union bosses file “blocking charges” containing unrelated allegations of employer misconduct to impede on workers’ ability to cast secret-ballot votes on whether to remove a union. NLRB regional offices usually prevent employees from casting votes after they initiate a “blocking charge” without even a hearing into whether the alleged employer conduct and employees’ disaffection with the union are actually connected.
“It is ridiculous that the NLRB has let union bosses block employees’ right to a secret-ballot vote on whether or not a union deserves to stay in power at their workplace based merely on a change in employers,” remarked National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “If anything, changes in ownership of a company should be automatic grounds for a decertification vote, because to the extent there was ever support for the union it was to deal with the previous employer, not the new ownership.”
“We urge the NLRB in Washington to immediately overturn this anti-worker ‘bar’ policy and ultimately do away with all non-statutory policies which stifle the right of rank-and-file workers to freely decide who their voice will be in the workplace,” Mix continued.