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Labor demands that NLRB restore right to vote on unions

60 unions tell NLRB to stop dragging its feet, do its job conducting union elections


(April 20, 2020) — Union organizations from across Washington state and beyond have called out the Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for failing to resume union recognition elections in a timely fashion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for workers to be able to join together and negotiate for safe workplaces and fair compensation, but the federal agency that’s supposed to protect their rights to have these elections has been dragging its feet and even creating new obstacles to unionization.

More than 60 union locals and councils (see list below) have signed an open letter to the agency and are demanding “that the NLRB immediately restore workers’ democratic right to vote for union recognition, and to stop erecting new barriers that impede and discourage the unionization process.”

TAKE A STANDClick here to add your name to this open letter to the NLRB.

Workers at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, for example, have been organizing to form a union with UFCW 21 and were scheduled to vote on it April 2 until the NLRB announced it was cancelling all union recognition elections in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The agency later announced it would resume elections my mail ballots starting April 6, but workers at Lourdes — and reportedly at many other workplaces across the nation — still don’t know when their elections will be rescheduled.

“I am a transporter and walk over 15 miles every day transporting patients around the hospital,” said Isaac Avalos, a Patient Transporter at Lourdes. “I know that other hospitals in our region pay better because they have a union. I’m a single dad and depend on my job to take care of my child. My coworkers and I just want to vote and get over the games Lourdes is playing. We want UFCW 21 to represent us and for us to come to work confident that we are going to be treated fairly. We are showing up to work during a pandemic, we need the NLRB and Lourdes to show up for us, too. Let us vote now.”

What’s worse, the NLRB granted the employers the ability block an election via mail ballot if they choose. And that’s exactly what has happened at Lourdes.

“I am so disappointed on Lourdes for not allowing us to have mail-in ballot,” said Maria Hinojosa, Central Processing Aide at the hospital. “We have worked so hard to unify our departments and be ready for our election on April 2nd. We are not going to allow them to take our right to organize. We want our union and our right to a say in our working conditions. With this COVID-19 crisis, our management can do better by us and allowing us to at least to vote. We need our job protections, our safety and fair wages. I work in Central Supply and we are losing hours since our department is not emergency care. With the union we would be protected instead of at the mercy of our company.”

Here is the open letter to the NLRB with the signatory organizations below:

Unions and Community Call Out NLRB for Failure to Restart Elections, Impeding Process

After intense pressure by unions and workers around the nation in late March, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced it would re-open union recognition elections beginning on April 6 that they had canceled in March. This was welcome news for workers across the nation, including those at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, Wash., who had planned to vote for their union on April 2, but had been forced to put that vote on hold after the original NLRB decision.

So it was with great frustration that these workers and others watched April 6 come and go with no real movement by the NLRB. Despite making various excuses, the fact remains that the NLRB has failed to re-open elections as they had promised.

These workers are stuck in a precarious limbo. Most employers in the U.S. aggressively oppose unionization. They do so by forcing employees to attend meetings where they intimidate and spread misinformation about unions. They even fire employees who are leaders to set an example to others that this will not be tolerated. That’s why, after a group of workers announces their intent to join together in a union, there is a need for a speedy vote. Much like in our judicial system, a delay in a fair process to join a union is a denial of a fair process to join a union.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, workers around the nation are demonstrating that they are essential to our society’s well-being. Hard-working people are putting in long hours, risking illness to serve others’ needs, and making many other sacrifices. These are people who will never get rich at their jobs – and never expected to.  But they do expect to get respect.  The pandemic has exposed the inequities in our society. People of color and people with lower incomes appear more likely to become ill from the virus, more likely to suffer most severely from it, and more likely to die.

At the same, people with a union at work have proven to be most effective at driving for changes in the workplace that protect themselves and the customers, patients and public they serve. Unionized workers have often led the way for increased safety protections, better paid sick days, implementing social distancing, and other changes to reduce the chance for contraction of the virus. And if it is contracted, unions support better systems so workers can afford to stay home and get well instead of coming to work sick just to pay the bills.

The bottom line: unionized workplaces and unionized workers are a force for safety and protections that serve everyone. That’s why last month’s NLRB decision to suspend all union elections was such an affront to workers, to public safety, and to the basic freedom that makes America strong.

Now, one week after they promised to restore American workers’ basic rights, it still hasn’t happened — and we are still waiting.

We, the undersigned, demand that the NLRB immediately restore workers’ democratic right to vote for union recognition, and to stop erecting new barriers that impede and discourage the unionization process.

AFGE 1121
AFT Washington
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen – Washington State Legislative Board
Casa Latina
CWA District 9
Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union
IAFF 726 – Pierce County Professional Firefighters
IAFF 1352 – Valley Professional Firefighters
Ironworkers 86
Kitsap County CLC
Machinists (IAM) District Council 751
Masters, Mates & Pilots
Operating Engineers (IUOE) 302
Pride at Work
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists
Protech 17
Roofers 189
Retired Public Employees Council of Washington
Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council
SEIU 503
Southeastern Washington Central Labor Council
Spokane Regional Labor Council
Steelworkers (USW) District 12
Steelworkers 338
Teamsters Joint Council 28
Teamsters 38
Teamsters 174
Teamsters 760
Teamsters 839
UFCW 367
UFCW 368a
UFCW 555
UFCW 770
UFCW 1439
UFCW 1496
United Faculty of Central
United Inland Group – Pacific Maritime Region
Washington Education Association
Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28
Washington State Association of the Plumbers and Pipefitters
Washington State Council of Fire Fighters
Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Washington State Nurses Association
WEA-Sammamish UniServ Council
WPEA UFCW Local 365

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