NLRB clears path for Operating Engineers decertification vote at Allied Stone

Sources: National Labor Relations Board; CP staff

In a case involving one of 12 crushed stone or sand & gravel operations under Moline, Ill.-based RiverStone Group Inc., the NLRB 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 a bargaining unit at the Allied Stone Co. quarry to vote on maintaining union representation. Power equipment operators at the Milan, Ill., site 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 bargaining 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.

Despite the union’s policy arguments regarding the three-year contract bar rule, Lineback assures that as a regional director, he “clearly has no authority to overrule or ignore what is clear Board precedent and policy.” Per Board Members’ late-August refusal to review the Lineback decision, a secret ballot election will be scheduled and overseen through the agency’s Peoria, Ill., office.