Poultry Workers’ Push To Separate From Union Denied

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A ruling in a case involving attempts by poultry workers to separate from their union is being interpreted in different ways.

The National Labor Relations Board has decided that votes cast by hundreds of poultry workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 would not be counted.

An employee of Mountaire, Oscar Cruz Sosa, is being represented by the National Right to Work Foundation. Its President Mark Mix said the NLRB ‘steamrolled the statutory rights’ of workers who organized to remove a union they oppose.

The UFCW calls it a victory and that it upholds 40 years of labor law in what is called the ‘contract bar doctrine – a rule that no representation elections are permitted for a unit covered under a union contract until it expires, up to three years.

UFCW Local 27 President Jason Chorpenning said the effort was driven by a special interest group opposed to the very existence of unions.

A full statement from Mix follows:

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. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) 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.  Complex “bars” like the “contract bar” that tether employees to unpopular incumbent unions for years have no place in America.

The appalling result of this decision is that approximately 800 already-cast votes of Mountaire Farms poultry workers will be destroyed, and the workers whose votes likely would show they oppose the union will all be forced to continue paying union dues or be fired. That this Board believes that is an acceptable outcome under the NLRA shows why it is time to fundamentally reform American labor law with the freedom of association, including the freedoms of workers who choose not to associate with a union, at its center.

A full statement from Chorpenning follows:

“Here we had a contract that was agreed to by all parties involved – it was signed by the employer, signed by the union, and voted in favorably by a majority of the employees covered by the contract. But a special interest group opposed to the very existence of unions drummed up an effort to strip these workers of their union rights and protections by claiming some language in the contract that has lasted more than four decades was somehow unlawful.

“This was a blatant attempt to undermine workers’ rights and weaken protections for Mountaire employees. Moreover, this effort came in the midst of a global pandemic when these very workers were risking their lives and the lives of their families by coming to work every day to protect food access for communities in Delaware and across the country. We are pleased the Board reversed the regional director’s decision and recognized the motivated reasoning that brought this case forth in the first place.”