In June and July of 2020, employees at the Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Selbyville, Delaware held a union decertification election on whether to remove officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union from their workplace. In April of 2021, union lawyers convinced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to destroy the hundreds of ballots employees had cast before they were ever counted. Last week, a second vote conducted by the NLRB confirmed that nearly a year and a half later, Mountaire Farms employees decisively opposed the UFCW in a 356-80 vote.
The summer 2020 vote was requested by Mountaire employee Oscar Cruz Sosa, who received free legal representation from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Cruz Sosa sent a petition signed by many of his coworkers to the NLRB requesting a vote. The election was held, but the ballots were impounded while the Board considered whether its non-statutory “contract bar” policy should invalidate the election.
The “contract bar” prevents workers from holding a decertification vote, for up to three years, while a union monopoly bargaining contract with their employer remains in effect. Foundation attorneys urged the Board to reverse the bar because it is not found in the text of the National Labor Relations Act, and serves only to protect unpopular union bosses from worker accountability.
Ultimately, the Board sided with union lawyers, upheld the “contract bar,” and threw out the ballots cast by workers at the 800-employee facility. The employees were forced to wait almost a year for the contract UFCW bosses had with their employer to expire before beginning anew the process for another election.
National Right to Work Legal Defense President Mark Mix issued the following statement about the election results:
Despite what we now know to be overwhelming opposition to their presence at Mountaire Farms, UFCW officials took advantage of the NLRB’s rules to block a decertification vote for over a year and a half. The vote tally only emphasizes the injustice of the NLRB’s April decision to apply the “contract bar” policy and destroy these workers’ ballots, leaving them trapped paying compulsory union dues despite such massive opposition to union officials’ so-called “representation.”
While we’re under no illusions that the Biden NLRB, stacked with former union officials, will end this longstanding impediment to workers’ right to free themselves of an unwanted union, this saga demonstrates why the injustice that is the non-statutory “contract bar” must be ended by a future Board.