FILE - Teamsters

Sign of International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the entrance of its office in Washington

(The Center Square) – Airgas USA employee Angel Herrera and his coworkers sought to end union control at their workplace for well over a year. They won after Teamsters Local 848 officials filed documents recently with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to end the union's monopoly bargaining power over all workers at the Airgas Glass Welding and Safety Products facility in Ventura, California.

Airgas employees had filed a petition with their management to rescind recognition of Teamsters Local 848, which Airgas prepared to do, when Teamsters officials filed unfair labor practice charges against Airgas with the NRLB in an attempt to block its removal.

The NLRB then asked a federal judge to demand that Airgas US LLC rehire several Teamsters supporters, arguing that six workers had been fired for their ties to the union, among other grievances.

In September 2019, Local 848 accused Airgas of “violating its employees’ labor rights during and after its successful campaign to represent workers at the company’s Ventura location,” the union said in a news release. They argued that workers had sought to stall their 2018 campaign by threatening to fire employees who voted to join the union. By March 2020, Airgas had refused to recognize the union and gave workers raises.

Herrera and his colleagues, receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, lost their first attempt to get rid of the union. The board ruled that Airgas recognized the union and its representation and therefore couldn’t vote to remove it. Herrera and his coworkers again tried, and filed a “decertification petition” with the NLRB to remove the Teamsters from their workplace.

They received enough votes to require an NLRB-supervised “decertification election,” which allowed them to vote using a secret ballot. Ultimately, the workers didn’t have to vote because Teamsters officials instead withdrew their interest in representing Airgas workers.

NRWF notes that unions filing unfair labor practice charges prior to a decertification vote is a common practice. The union’s attorney argued that Airgas had engaged in some of the most “egregious conduct … seen in over 25 years.”

However, Herrera’s case was one of the latest in a series of successful efforts led by workers to oust union officials.

Earlier this summer, maintenance worker Tim Mangia and his coworkers at Chicago’s Rush University filed a decertification petition and successfully voted out of their workplace Local 743, a Teamsters affiliate. Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego also recently earned an opportunity to vote out a union many didn’t want. They waited two years from when they filed the petition to remove the union after union officials filed unfair labor practice charges against the school. Later, the union dropped out after reaching no contract agreement for over a year.

Last month, in Las Vegas, Foundation attorneys filed an amicus brief on behalf of a Red Rock Casino worker contesting a federal judge’s order. The judge had ruled casino management to submit to bargaining talks with Culinary Union officials, despite the fact that the majority of workers had voted against unionization.

Early last year, Foundation attorneys filed formal comments to proposed federal rule changes. In the NLRB’s comments for the finalized rule, the board criticized union bosses’ for implementing “blocking charges” in order to delay or stop decertification votes.

“No American workers should have to file multiple petitions and endure protracted litigation just so they can exercise this basic right of free association,” NRWF President Mark Mix said in a statement. “This is more important than ever given the Biden Administration’s focus on further empowering union officials at the expense of rank-and-file workers’ individual rights.”