Labor board to study doctrine that could delay efforts to oust union at poultry processor Mountaire

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The National Labor Relations Board will study “the contract bar doctrine” in a dispute over decertifying the union representing workers at the Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant in Sussex County.

The vote to push out the United Food and Commercial Workers union at the plant is being spearheaded by the National Right to Work Legal Council and Mountaire employee identified as Oscar Cruz Sosa.

Cruz Sosa has claimed the union seized dues from employee paychecks and threatened him.

UFCW officials argued after the petition’s filing that the “contract bar” should block Cruz Sosa and coworkers from having a decertification election.

The contract bar, according to the foundation, is a policy from the NLBR that bars decertification votes while the union is working under a contract with the company. The right to work group claims the doctrine is not part of laws related to the NLRB.

The governmental body has become less friendly toward organized labor during the Trump administration.

The effort has also received support from Mountaire, a privately owned company that is largely nonunion. In a press release, the company cited temporary pay increases, testing, sanitation and other moves aimed at improving conditions at the plant.

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The union has argued that Mountaire and the right to work group have been taking advanage of the coronavirus crisis in attempting to oust the union. In the spring, an outbreak of coronavirus was reported in and around Delmarva poultry processing plants.

The union claimed it was barred from entering the Selbyville plant and talking to workers, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Late Tuesday, just hours after the voting process in the decertification election had begun, the NLRB voted to review the contract bar doctrine.

The board allowed the vote to continue.

“The ‘contract bar’ has for decades allowed union officials to trap workers in a union a majority of them oppose for up to three years merely because the employer and union finalized a contract between themselves,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We urge the NLRB to swiftly overturn this outrageous non-statutory policy, as it actively undermines the free choice of workers that is supposed to be at the center of federal labor law.”

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