San Juan Armored Transport Guard Petitions Labor Board to Scrap Controversial Policy Blocking Workers’ Votes to Kick Out Union

We often forget that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory that faces many of the same policy problems as most states. The forced unionization that constantly afflicts American workers has made its way to Puerto Rico. Thankfully, however, people are fighting back.

On January 8, 2021, a guard working for Ranger American Armored Services submitted a Request for Review to the National Labor Relations Board  (NLRB) in Washington, DC. In this Request, he calls on the entire board to bring up his case pursuing a secret ballot election that the NLRB will oversee. The worker in question wants to kick out the Private Security and Valuables Transit Professionals Union from his place of employment.

The guard in question, Edwin Roman, requested that the NLRB review the Regional Director’s decision to stifle the election on the grounds of the “contract bar.” This refers to a non-statutory NLRB policy which prohibits employees from asserting their right to kick out an unpopular union for up to three years following an employer’s and union bosses’ decision to hammer out a contract.

The guard, Edwin Roman, asks the NLRB to review the Regional Director’s decision to block the election on the basis of the “contract bar,” a non-statutory NLRB policy which forbids employees from exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union for up to three years after an employer and union bosses have finalized a contract. The “contract bar” is not featured in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is tasked with enforcing. Roman’s Request for Review contends that it should be scrapped due to how it only serves to entrench union bosses’ power. This goes against the spirit of the NLRA, which grants workers the right to hold secret-ballot elections to “decertify” unions opposed by the majority.

According to the Request for Review senton November 18, 2020, Roman filed a petition signed by the required number of his fellow employees needed to kick off a secret-ballot decertification election at his workplace that the NLRB would supervise. The Request for Review highlighted opposition to the “Union’s representation, its contract, and its requirement that” employees pay dues to union leaders or be fired in accordance to the reasons that Roman and his colleagues outlined in the petition. So far, Roman and his colleagues had already been working under the current monopoly bargaining contract for roughly a year.

On December 21, 2020, the Director of NLRB Region 12 in Tampa, Florida, threw out Roman’s petition after union officials raised criticism, asserting that the “contract bar” puts a roadblock on this decertification attempt. As a consequence, Roman appealed his case to the entire NLRB.

Roman’s Request for Review highlighted that the contract bar “has no basis in the text of” the NLRA, and that the NLRB’s original interpretations of the statute was in favor of “full freedom of association and foreclos[ed] any contract bar.” According to the Request for Review, the contract bar was activated as a result of later union boss-friendly decisions taken by the Board.

The request also makes the case that the “contract bar contradicts the [NLRA’s] well-established ‘bedrock principles of employee free choice and majority rule’” by letting a union force its representation on employees “even in the face of objective evidence proving the union has lost majority support.” It also noted that the only restriction on workers’ right to carry out decertification elections actually provided in the NLRA is the one-year “bar” in the aftermath of an election, which makes the non-statutory three-year “contract bar” a blatant infringement on workers’ rights under the NLRA.

“The ‘contract bar’ undermines one of the fundamental objectives of federal labor law: employee free choice. It makes rank-and-file employees prisoners of an unpopular union, merely because union honchos and an employer struck a contract between themselves,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This inevitably creates an environment in which, as Mr. Roman and his coworkers can certainly attest, it’s impossible to hold self-serving union bosses accountable because workers are denied the right to vote them out for three years.”