With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Kerry Atkins and his coworkers at the US Brick facility in Mooresville, IN, are fighting a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order stifling their right to vote out an unpopular union at the plant. Atkins submitted on March 7 a Request for Review, asking the full NLRB in Washington, DC, to overturn the decision and eliminate a non-statutory NLRB doctrine called the “successor bar” that blocks employees’ right to vote out an unwanted union when management changes hands in a workplace.
Atkins filed a petition in December 2021 requesting that the NLRB hold a vote whether to decertify Teamsters Local 135 union officials. NLRB Regional Director Patricia Nachand ruled on February 9 that US Brick’s recent acquisition of the plant triggered the so-called “successor bar” and rendered the employee petition invalid.
The “successor bar” is a non-statutory policy invented by NLRB appointees that immunizes union officials from being voted out by employees for up to a year after management changes as a result of a sale, merger, or acquisition. Employees have a statutory right to hold decertification elections to remove union monopoly “representation” they oppose, but the “successor bar” is found nowhere in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which the NLRB is charged with enforcing. In that statute, the only “bar” to holding a decertification election is if a prior NLRB election was held within the previous year.
According to Atkins’ Request for Review, a Department of Justice antitrust complaint forced the former employer, General Shale, to sell the Mooresville facility before it could complete a transaction with another company. US Brick purchased the Mooresville plant from General Shale in November 2021, and rehired all 33 employees, including Atkins, in the bargaining unit controlled by the Teamsters union.
In addition to Atkins’ submission of the petition for a decertification vote, the NLRB Regional Director’s order mentions that plant management has in its possession a more general petition expressing disaffection with the Teamsters, which bears the signatures of about 70 percent of the employees. Even though the signatures “were verified by the Human Resources Manager against completed I-9 forms,” the Regional Director’s order says “[t]he hearing officer denied questioning and evidence” regarding the disaffection petition.
Atkins’ Request for Review contends that the “successor bar” serves no purpose other than to block the will of rank-and-file employees in favor of entrenching union bosses who ought to be accountable to the employees.
“The successor bar undermines the NLRA’s core purpose of employee free choice by disregarding employees’ actual desires and past experiences with their union representative. It also fails to recognize the Board’s highest calling: to conduct elections when there is a question of representation and to ensure employees are represented by a union of their choosing,” the Request for Review argues.
Foundation staff attorneys have recently aided numerous workers in exercising their right to dispense with union officials they oppose, including by advocating for election policy changes that the NLRB adopted in 2020. The changes prevent union officials from manipulating allegations (also called “blocking charges”) against an employer to stop workers from having a decertification election.
Teamsters union officials in particular have been the target of Foundation-assisted workers who are seeking to shed unions. In just the past year, Rush University maintenance workers in Chicago, Frito-Lay salesmen in Del Rio, TX, Allied Central Coast truckers in Santa Maria, CA, XPO Logistics workers in Cinnaminson, NJ, and Blish-Mize hardware distribution employees in Atchison, KS, all voted to decertify unpopular Teamsters local unions.
“The NLRB-invented ‘successor bar’ is just one example of how the Board neglects its mandate to protect the rights of individual workers, including those opposed to forced union affiliation, just to protect union boss power,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The ‘successor bar’ not only overrides the statutory right of workers to vote out unions they oppose, but does so at the very moment when workers are most likely to reevaluate their union status: the turnover of the old management that perhaps was the reason for unionization in the first place.”
“In this case the fundamental injustice of the ‘successor bar’ is compounded by the fact that one arm of the federal government – the Department of Justice – demanded the sale of this facility, which another federal agency – the NLRB – says should be grounds for blocking workers from ejecting a union they overwhelmingly oppose,” Mix continued. “Foundation attorneys will fight for Mr. Atkins and his coworkers until they can exercise their right to eject this unpopular union.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.