Production and maintenance employees at Conagra Brands in St. Elmo, Illinois, have filed a petition seeking the removal of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 from their workplace. The workers’ petition was filed on April 6, 2022, at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 14 based in St. Louis, Missouri, with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Michelle Brockett, a long time Conagra employee, filed the decertification petition for her co-workers, supported by the signatures she collected to trigger a NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote whether to remove the union. The workers have asked the NLRB to schedule an in-person secret ballot election on April 26 and 27.

Under federal law, when at least 30% of workers in a bargaining unit sign a petition seeking the removal of union officials’ monopoly bargaining powers, an NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote to remove the union is triggered. If a majority of workers casting valid ballots do not vote for the union, the union is stripped of its government-granted monopoly “representation” powers. Those powers let union officials impose contracts on all workers in the workplace, even workers who are not union members and oppose the union. In Illinois, which lacks Right to Work protections that make union financial support strictly voluntary, union officials use their monopoly powers to mandate that all workers pay money to the union or else be fired.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have recently assisted workers in numerous successful decertification efforts across the nation, including for workers in IllinoisOklahoma, and Delaware. Foundation-backed reforms to the rules for decertification elections that the NLRB adopted in 2020 have curtailed union officials’ abuse of so-called “blocking charges” used to delay or block workers from exercising their right to decertify a union. Such charges are often based on unproven allegations made against an employer, completely unrelated to workers’ desire to free themselves of the union.

In a previous decertification petition filed against UFCW Local 881 in 2019, prior to the blocking charges reform, union officials used tactics to attempt to block a vote from taking place for Pinncacle Foods Group, ultimately resulting in a delay of the vote for seven months. Although on appeal to NLRB in Washington, D.C., the workers won the ruling that finally let the vote occur, the unjustified delay contributed to union officials prevailing over the workers’ original decertification attempt.

“Thanks to Foundation-backed reforms, UFCW union officials have a much harder time using blocking charges to hinder the rights of workers, so the NLRB should promptly schedule an election for workers at Conagra Brands,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No matter the outcome of this decertification vote, the many workers at Conagra who are opposed to the union should never have been required to fund the activities of union officials with whom they want nothing to do, which is why Illinois workers deserve the protection of a Right to Work law that makes union financial support strictly voluntary.”

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