Biden Labor Board Blocks Construction Workers From Union Exodus

Workers unanimously opted out of carpenters' union

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March 4, 2021

The Biden administration is blocking the exits for construction workers who unanimously voted to cut ties with their union.

The National Labor Relations Board refused to allow a group of Indiana workers to hold a vote that would decertify their representation with the local carpenters' union despite the group's unanimous support for cutting ties. The group of workers submitted the request to the regional NLRB, which blocked the attempt to decertify.

Indiana is a right-to-work state, meaning the state allows employees to work without requiring union membership, but the board is blocking the vote under federal law. The board's lawyers allege that the workers cannot exit the union because company management allegedly engaged in "bad faith" bargaining, according to the case filing.

The carpenters' union did not respond to a request for comment.

The conflict comes as President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats signal their readiness to take executive and legislative action to empower labor unions. Biden has already overhauled the leadership of the NLRB with the unprecedented removal of the board's general counsel, and House Democrats are expected to vote on the PRO Act, a drastic labor reform bill.

Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is assisting the workers, said the labor board is already moving to undo reforms put in place by the NLRB under former president Donald Trump that simplified the process for workers to decline union representation.

In March 2020, the NLRB finalized rules that simplified the process for employees to decertify their union leadership. "The Board believes that these amendments better protect employees’ statutory right of free choice on questions concerning representation," the board stated.

Semmens said the move to block the Indiana workers from decertifying their leadership is the first step in weakening those rules.

"I would fully expect that once there's a Biden majority on the NLRB, they're going to move to undo those rules to allow unions to block even more instances where workers are seeking decertification elections," Semmens said. "It certainly points to something I unfortunately think we're going to see more of in the coming years."

House Democrats are also expected to vote on the PRO Act next week. The act would significantly weaken right-to-work laws nationwide, although it stands little chance of passing the deadlocked Senate.