In a case involving a crushed stone operation of Moline, Ill.-based RiverStone Group Inc., the National Labor Relations Board affirms a contract bar doctrine limiting to three years the window during which a collective bargaining agreement restricts unit members from pursuing a vote to decertify their union.
Board members have rejected an International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 (Countryside, Ill.) request to review a regional director’s July 2014 decision allowing an Allied Stone Co. bargaining unit to vote on maintaining union representation. Power equipment operators at the Milan, Ill., quarry are under a May 2010–2015 collective bargaining agreement. Just into the final year, a unit member petitioned the NLRB for a vote to decertify IUOE 150 as its representative, citing the contract’s three-year limit to operate as a bar.
NLRB Regional Director Rik Lineback concurs with the employee and Allied Stone in his decision: “[C]ontract bar doctrine is intended to balance the statutory policies of stabilizing labor relations and facilitating employees’ exercise of free choice in the selection or change of a bargaining representative. The doctrine is Board created, not imposed by the [National Labor Relations] Act or judicial case law, and the Board has considerable discretion to formulate and apply its rules. A contract may serve as a bar to a representation election only for up to three years after its execution. The party asserting a contract bar bears the burden of proof.”
Local 150 questioned doctrine application in light of the agreement’s five-year horizon, and the Allied Stone bargaining unit’s 2013 vote on health, welfare and pension distribution of year four and five financial increases. One reason for deferring from 2010 to 2013 the back-end increases’ allocation, union officials note, was uncertainty surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare, passed March 2010) effect on insurance rates.
In their request for Board review of the Lineback decision, Operating Engineers attorneys argued that “employees exercised their freedom of choice when they re-ratified the agreement by voting to distribute the financial increases. During this re-ratification, [they] did not object to the length of the contract, thus, knowingly voted for two more years of labor stability consistent with the goals and desires of the Union and Allied. Application of the three-year bar to this situation permits a small group of dissenters to disrupt this stable bargaining relationship. It is essential to recognize that under the National Labor Policy, employee free choice rests upon traditional American principles of majority rule.”
Despite the union’s policy arguments regarding the three-year contract bar rule, Lineback assured that as a regional director, he “has no authority to overrule or ignore what is clear Board precedent and policy.” Per Board members’ refusal to review the decision, a secret ballot election was to be overseen by the agency’s Peoria, Ill., office. Allied Stone is one of 12 RiverStone Group sites in western Illinois and eastern Iowa. IUOE 150 represents power equipment operators at two of the company’s other Illinois properties, Troy Grove Quarry and Vermillion Quarry, both via three-year agreements.
FEDS CHECK CRANE FIRM’S I-9, E-VERIFY PROTOCOL
In a suit filed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges a Eunice, La.-based crane operator violated the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision by creating hurdles for immigrants during the employment eligibility verification process because of their citizenship status. From at least January–September 2013, the complaint states, Louisiana Crane Co., LLC required employees who it believed to be non-U.S. citizens to present specific documentation for the Form I-9 and/or E-Verify, but allowed individuals it believed to be U.S. citizens the flexibility to present a variety of documents.
“The law protects people who have permission to work from facing discriminatory obstacles during employment eligibility verification,” says Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “It is important that all people who have permission to work in the United States face an equal playing field when proving their work authorization.”
The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices is responsible for enforcing the INA anti-discrimination provision. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and, intimidation.