Ventura Airgas employees have successfully broken free from the unwanted Teamsters labor union following a significant litigation process involving the National Labor Relations Board and the National Right to Work Foundation. The employees at the Airgas Ventura, CA location were the drivers of the union decertification.
Airgas, an Air Liquide company, is a leading single-source supplier of gases, welding equipment and supplies, and safety products, with 1,400 locations nationwide.
The Globe spoke with National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix, who said after filing a petition for a vote to remove the union with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Teamsters officials filed unfair labor practice charges against Airgas soon after in an attempt to retain power over the employees at the facility despite the employees’ overwhelming opposition to the union.
Decertifications often are initiated because the majority of the current employees never voted on the original union contract and don’t want to pay dues.
Airgas Ventura employees’ effort began in 2020, when they submitted a petition asking Airgas management to rescind recognition of Teamsters Local 848. Though Airgas management prepared to withdraw recognition as the majority of employees had requested, that is when the teamsters filed the unfair labor practices claim, Mix said.
The NRTW Foundation explained:
Angel Herrera and his fellow Airgas employees endured months of litigation in support of their push to end Teamsters Local 848’s power at their workplace, an effort they began in 2020. Finally, after Herrera and his colleagues submitted a majority-backed petition in August asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to administer a vote to decertify the union, Teamsters officials filed documents ending their reign at the facility.
Following Herrera’s and his coworkers’ yearlong effort seeking to end the union’s control at their workplace, Teamsters Local 848 officials have filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ending their monopoly bargaining power over all workers at the Airgas Glass Welding and Safety Products facility in Ventura. Herrera and his colleagues received free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in filing a petition for a vote to oust Teamsters union officials.
But this took months and months of litigation. Mix explained that labor unions usually will file unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which often extends the process out. “Then these employees have paid union dues another year, and have to wait for their next window to challenge the union.”
Mix said it was months of litigation at the NLRB, the federal agency charged with enforcing most private sector labor law. Ultimately the NLRB forced Airgas to recognize the Teamsters union and the union’s “representation” was imposed back on the employees.
Herrera and his coworkers tried again to get Teamsters union chiefs out of their workplace this summer by filing a “decertification petition” with the NLRB. Herrera’s petition, filed on August 30, contained signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger an NLRB-supervised “decertification election,” a secret-ballot election after which union officials lose monopoly bargaining power if a majority of workers vote to remove them.
After the Airgas employees’ second petition to end the Teamsters’ union representation, and the impending decertification election, Mix said the union picked up its ball and went home.
Before a decertification election was scheduled, however, Teamsters officials instead disclaimed interest in maintaining control over the workplace on September 13, in an apparent attempt to spare themselves the embarrassment of an overwhelming vote by workers to reject the union’s so-called “representation.”
And this is the game of getting rid of an unwanted labor union. It is time consuming and costly, and doesn’t always work in favor of the employees seeking to rid their workplace of the unwanted labor union.
Recently, the Biden Administration fired and replaced NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, who still had nearly a year before his term was set to expire. According to the Employers Lawyers Blog, “the move was a marked departure from the norm whereby most newly elected presidents would allow the GC to serve out the term.”
“Immediately after Robb’s removal, new NLRB GC Peter Sung Ohr issued 10 separate directives aimed at rolling back Trump-era changes to the Board’s enforcement policies.”
The Airgas employees are fortunate to have broken free from the Teamsters union given the political changes at the NLRB.
“We at the Foundation are proud to have helped Mr. Herrera and his colleagues in the exercise of their workplace rights, but no American workers should have to file multiple petitions and endure protracted litigation just so they can exercise this basic right of free association,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “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.”
“Foundation staff attorneys will not waiver in their defense of workers’ right to dispense with unwanted union so-called ‘representation,’ regardless of which way the political winds blow,” Mix added.
This is the decertification petition the workers at the Airgas facility filed right before union bosses declared they were abandoning the plant:Herrera Petition NRTW