Workers at Michigan Rieth-Riley Call on NLRB to Reverse Regional Decision After All Votes Were Made to Cancel Election to Kick Out Union

Election chaos has not stopped labor watchdogs from attempting to hold abusive labor unions accountable.

On November 16, 2020, Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees filed an emergency appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. In the appeal, they asked the Board to overturn an NLRB Regional Director’s last minute decision nullifying the workers’ vote whether to kick out  International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 from their place of employment. The Region delivered this order a few hours prior to the ballots being counted and in the aftermath of all of the workers’ votes being cast.

Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal representation to the construction workers in the case. For months, Rieth-Riley workers have been attempting to kick out unpopular IUOE officials. Employee Rayalan Kent and his coworkers have filed two petitions with the aim of obtaining a decertification election.

Despite an election by mail beginning in October, a few hours before the NLRB Detroit Region started to count the votes on November 9, the Regional Director issued a decision tossing out Kent and his coworkers’ petitions. If the NLRB in Washington, DC doesn’t take action, the workers’ votes in their decertification election will be destroyed and never be counted.

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In August, Kent submitted his most recent petition for a vote to remove the union. Kent had enough signatures from his coworkers to initiate such a vote as required by law. This petition was filed with the expectation that new safeguards from the NLRB in Washington, DC, which went into effect at the end of July, would do a better job at keeping the union from using legal moves to derail their efforts to vote out the union. Kent’s attorneys, which the Foundation provided, also alluded to those reforms in a Request for Review that was submitted back in April in defense of his first decertification petition. The Board ended up denying this decertification attempt. 

The NLRB Regional Director in Detroit threw out Kent and his coworkers’ two petitions by using unproven allegations IUOE bosses have made against Rieth-Riley management in so-called “blocking charges.”

The Region’s decision contradicts reforms the NLRB implemented through the rulemaking process that mostly gets rid of “blocking charges” as a way to delay a vote. The reforms prescribe a system in which employees can normally vote to determine whether a union should be kept at a workplace before the NLRB handles any unfair labor practice charges filed against their employer.

The reforms’ intent is to prevent union bosses from throwing their weight around against disgruntled workers for months or even years while union allegations — which usually have no relation to the case at hand — against employers go through the litigation process. The NLRB’s final rule specifically stipulates that votes be counted and results announced unless the charges make allegations that the employer aided the decertification petition in an improper manner. Even in that instance, the votes will be counted unless a complaint filed against the employer has been issued within a sixty day timeframe.

Nonetheless, the NLRB Regional Director refused to even hold an evidentiary hearing to find out whether there is a causal connection between IUOE union bosses’ allegations and Kent and his coworkers’ attempt to kick out the union, asserting that the Region’s “investigation” was adequate and supersedes the NLRB’s new rules concerning “blocking charges.”

The workers’ appeal observes that, “even under the old rules, the Region is misapplying the law by dismissing the petitions.” It explains that the “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.”

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said the following: “Rieth-Riley employees have already had to endure many months of union boss stonewalling just to exercise their right to vote out an unpopular union. NLRB Region 7’s current decision to stifle further the employees’ will makes the whole situation even more outrageous and rigged in favor of union power. The NLRB in Washington should immediately overturn this decision and order the Region to count the ballots as NLRB rules dictate.”

Mix continued, “NLRB Region 7’s decision completely ignores the amended rule the NLRB in Washington issued in July, which clearly delineates why employees’ right to vote should not be delayed or hindered by unproven or unrelated union accusations against an employer. We will continue to fight for Mr. Kent and his coworkers until their long-overdue right to free themselves from the unwanted Operating Engineers union is vindicated.”

Regardless of the 2020 election outcome, politicized unions aren’t going away.

They will continue with their coercive practices. Those who believe in labor freedom can be thankful that there are organizations like the National Right to Work Committee and its legal arm to help fight back against these petty despots.

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