Fourth Time’s a Charm for Alabama Workers Looking to Leave Union

UAW decertified at ball bearings plant after fourth vote

AP

Employees at NTN-Bower Corporation in Hamilton, Alabama, voted 82-50 to kick UAW (United Auto Workers) Local 1990 out of the ball bearings plant. Friday’s secret ballot election was the fourth arranged to determine the union’s future at the company. The workers won the right to withdraw from the union, which has represented them since 1976, after a two-year campaign.

Workers voted to decertify the UAW in an earlier election, but a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) panel threw out the election after labor organizers complained of management interference. The UAW prevailed in the third election held in January 2015. Those results were thrown out after it was revealed that 148 ballots were cast even though only 139 employees voted.

Union dissenters petitioned the NLRB for a fourth election with help from the National Right to Work Committee (NRTW). Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the group, said that the workers overcame a stacked deck of pro-labor NLRB regulators and powerful union officials.

"The Obama NLRB seems to have adopted the Roach Motel model of forced unionism, focused completely on making it as easy as possible for union organizers to unionize a workplace while making it nearly impossible for workers to remove an unwanted union," he said.

Alabama is a right-to-work state, giving employees the ability to opt out of union membership and preventing employers from forcing workers to join. NTN-Bower employs 140 workers at the factory who are union eligible, but only 76 pay union dues to Local 1990, according to 2013 federal labor filings.

The loss of representation in the factory could wipe out Local 1990, which has hemorrhaged members since its 2001 peak of 384. The union collected about $38,000 from workers in 2013. It spent $17,000 on staff, officers, and administrative costs. The majority of expenses went to the national UAW for per capita taxes.

The Alabama plant, NRTW’s Semmens said, "is symptomatic of a bigger problem." The NRTW often gets involved in decertification elections to aid union dissenters. Workers face an uphill climb once a union enters a workplace, as they are forced to compete against professional labor organizers while still working their day jobs. They are also less familiar with labor law than union officials, making it harder to clear the NLRB’s bureaucratic hurdles for decertification.

The NTN-Bower workers may have rejected the union by an overwhelming margin, but the anti-UAW coalition is not out of the woods yet. The UAW still has time to challenge the ballot vote. Local 1990 did not return a request for comment.