On June 25, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board announced that it will look into the “contract bar” doctrine, which keeps employees from asserting their right to vote to get rid of an unpopular union for up to three years if union officials and their employer have established a monopoly bargaining contract.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not outline a contract bar, which the NLRB runs. However, this is the end result of past Board decisions that favor union bosses.
This is the latest news in a case involving a Delaware-based Mountaire Farms poultry employee, Oscar Cruz Sosa, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 union. Cruz Sosa filed a petition for a vote to determine if Local 27 should be removed as monopoly bargaining agent at his place of work. The petition received enough signatures to activate such a vote.
In addition, Cruz Sosa filed federal unfair labor practice charges back in April against the union for illegally take dues from his and other coworkers’ paychecks, as well as levying threats against him after he submitted the decertification petition to kick out the union. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing Cruz Sosa free legal counsel.
After the petition was filed, the UFCW contended that the “contract bar” should prevent Cruz Sosa and his coworkers from even holding an election, due to how the monopoly bargaining agreement between Mountaire and the union had been signed less than three years prior. The NLRB Regional Director sustained that the vote should move forward because the union agreement features an illegal forced dues clause that forces workers to immediately pay union dues once hired or fired, which is a violation of a statutory 30-day grace period. Despite the well-established precedent backing the Regional Director’s ruling, UFCW union lawyers filed a Request for Review demanding that the full NLRB to override the Regional Director’s decision.
Cruz Sosa’s National Right to Work Foundation legal team opposed the union’s attempts to block the vote. They also argued that if the Board were to grant the union’s Request for Review it should rethink the entire “contract bar” policy, which has no legal standing according to the NLRA. The Foundation’s legal brief highlighted that the contract bar goes against the rights of workers under the NLRA, which explicitly outlines the right to kick out a union that a majority of workers oppose through a vote. The brief also noted that the original NLRB rejected the concept of a “contract bar” when the NLRA was passed.
“The ‘contract bar’ has for decades allowed union officials to trap workers in a union a majority of them oppose for up to three years merely because the employer and union finalized a contract between themselves,” stated National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We urge the NLRB to swiftly overturn this outrageous non-statutory policy, as it actively undermines the free choice of workers that is supposed to be at the center of federal labor law.”
“The very premise of the NLRB-created contract bar, that union bosses should be insulated from worker decertification efforts, is completely backwards,” continued Mix. “Union officials use all types of tactics to get workers into unions but rely on government power to not let them get out.”