The Trump National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will study the “contract bar doctrine,” in a dispute over decertifying the union representing workers at the Delaware-based Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant.
The vote to push out the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 at the plant is being spearheaded by the National Right to Work Committee Legal Defense Fund on behalf of an employee identified as Oscar Cruz Sosa.
The “contract bar doctrine” is an FDR-Era union protection rule that guarantees that once a contract is executed, no representation elections are permitted in the unit covered in the agreement until the contract expires, or for at least three years.
UFCW Local 27 officials argued after the petition’s filing that the “contract bar” should block the decertification election but the NRTWC claims the doctrine is not part of the laws related to the NLRB.
The company is complicit in the NRTWC filing, sending a press release in late June in which it “applauded a recent NLRB decision that will allow an election to proceed, giving employees at the company’s Shelbyville processing plant the chance to vote on whether they want to continue to be represented by the UFCW.”
The NRTWC argues that the “contract bar” is not based on the text of the National Labor Relations Act but is a creature of the NLRB jurisprudence and “unnecessarily stifles employee free choice.” The board is expected to solicit stakeholder feedback on the matter.
In an interview with The Young Turks (TYT), AFL-CIO General Counsel Craig Becker told TYT, “This [NLRB] board is very aggressive in its attempt to displace unions and so it’s highly likely they’re going to cut back on the contract bar rule in some way.”
Becker explains that eroding or eliminating the contract bar could hurt companies by destabilizing corporate relationships with unions.
“One of the arguments in favor of these bars is it gives both sides an incentive to be reasonable…as opposed to feeling you’ve got to fight to the hilt about everything,” says Becker.
Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Martin Malin agrees, telling TYT that the doctrine “always had the support of not only unions, but employers. The only one who doesn’t like it is the National Right to Work Committee.”
The NRTWC is asking the NLRB to “overrule or greatly narrow” the contract bar doctrine. ■