The Freedom to Refrain

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix calls upon the National Labor Relations Board to preserve a worker’s right to refrain from union membership.  The story appears in the Pittsburgh Tribune.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the principal federal law regulating employee-employer relations in America’s private sector, purports to uphold the right to “form, join or assist labor organizations” and also “the right to refrain from” forming, joining or assisting such organizations. But the NLRA fails utterly to give equal protection to workers who don’t want a union.

While an independent-minded worker has no individual right under the NLRA to refuse to be represented by an unwanted union, he or she does have the right, at least in theory, to oust the union from the workplace by collecting signatures from fellow employees to force a decertification vote.

This is precisely what Robert Williams, a bus driver for the firm Student Transportation of America (STA), is trying to do.

A year ago this spring, Williams’ employer was awarded a contract to provide bus service for students for the Gateway School District (GSD) in Monroeville. In July 2013, STA acquiesced to a demand by officers of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1729 that it be recognized as the “exclusive” bargaining agent for STA employees serving the GSD.

Local 1729 union bosses insisted they ought to be granted monopoly power to negotiate employees’ pay, benefits and work rules before the employees had even been officially hired because previously, when GSD transportation services had been provided by another firm (First Student), that firm’s employees had been corralled in Local 1729.

But Williams and several like-minded fellow STA employees never believed that, because their company might potentially be labeled by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the “successor” of a unionized firm, they should have to submit to union-boss control for months or, potentially, years.

Not long after they learned Local 1729 was to be installed as their monopoly-bargaining agent, Williams and his allies began collecting petitions from their fellow employees requesting an election to give them the opportunity to decertify Local 1729. On four separate occasions, employees presented the petitions to the NLRB in hopes of securing a decertification vote. The first three times, the NLRB flat-out refused to accept the petitions.

But on April 24, Williams filed yet another decertification petition, and this one was supported by 102 of his 105 fellow employees — 97 percent! This time, NLRB Region 6 in Pittsburgh at least agreed to grant STA’s Monroeville employees a hearing.

But it remains to be seen whether NLRB officials actually give these employees a chance to exercise their statutory right to unshackle themselves from union-boss control.

There is no legitimate reason for NLRB bureaucrats to tilt federal policy even more steeply against employee rights by concocting novel excuses to frustrate decertification votes to strip union officials of their monopoly-bargaining privileges. It’s time for Region 6 to stop stalling and respect bus drivers’ choice to become union-free.