The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a special interest organization funded by the ultra-wealthy and dedicated to destroying workers’ unions, is targeting an AFGE local at the National Park Service (NPS) with the goal of decertifying the union, thereby taking away workers’ rights and protections.
What’s happening at NPS is a classic move by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF), which has for decades funded anti-union efforts across the country.
Consolidation at Blue Ridge Parkway
Earlier last year, Blue Ridge Parkway employees represented by another union approached AFGE and expressed interest in changing affiliation to AFGE. They filed a petition in February with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) requesting reaffiliation. A month later, the FLRA approved the reaffiliation request and issued a certification formally changing the affiliation of the union to AFGE in June.
AFGE Local 446 had long served as the exclusive representative of another group of Blue Ridge Parkway employees. Based on the interest expressed by both units, AFGE filed a petition requesting a consolidation of the two units to promote effective representation and dealings within the agency and to reduce unit fragmentation.
No bargaining unit employees requested an election during the consolidation process or raised objections to the consolidation.
The FLRA proceeded to issue a certification in September 2021, consolidating the units represented by AFGE.
Attempts to decertify AFGE
A few months later in December, a bargaining unit employee backed by NRWLDF filed a petition seeking to decertify the newly consolidated unit citing a lack of union election. The FLRA’s regional director rejected the petition as it had been less than 12 months after the union certification of the consolidated unit. The director’s decision was consistent with a longstanding policy against petitions to decertify a union after less than a year of its certification.
The employee, who has since been promoted to management and no longer meets the legal requirement to proceed with the case, appealed for a review of the director’s decision by the full FLRA, which granted the review and asked both sides to submit legal arguments.
There is a long-standing policy in federal sector labor relations supporting the consolidation of bargaining units where the resulting consolidated unit is appropriate. Allowing decertification petitions in less than a year would be a disincentive for a union to respond to an employee request for representation.
The rationale behind the decertification bar before 12 months is also to provide stability to the new unit as the union and agency negotiates a new contract and allow the union to show employees the benefits of having a union.
Due to the scope and substantial changes, the challenges of representing employees after a unit has been consolidated are the same regardless of whether there’s an election.
“Like other newly certified units, consolidation requires a new collective bargaining agreement be negotiated. Those negotiations are taking place between a unit that has changed in scope and other meaningful ways by the consolidation process thereby meriting the application of the bar. By contrast, failing to extend the bar to consolidated units would disincentivize consolidation ⎯ frustrating Congressional intent and the relevant public policy interests,” AFGE said in our legal brief.
This case is yet more proof that special interests are still out there working hard to destroy workers’ rights and protections. Workers need to stand firmly together and fight back efforts like those funded by the NRWLDF.
While all of this has been going on, the agency has simultaneously been refusing to bargain a new contract with AFGE for the consolidated unit.
“We have filed a ULP against the agency for bad faith bargaining,” said AFGE Deputy General Counsel Cathie McQuiston. “This is page right out of the Amazon union busting playbook—they have refused to bargain a first contract to run out the one year so that the decertification petition can proceed since no contract will be in place.”