Poultry sector fighting against proposed rule on unionization

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014 - A proposed rule from the National Labor Relations Board dealing with a faster unionization process for workers at U.S. companies has drawn the ire of the poultry sector. The U. S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council, and National Turkey Federation recently submitted comments opposing the proposed rule, alleging it would result in “quickie” or “ambush” elections.

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The rule would essentially reduce the unionization election process from 42 days to between 10 and 21 days. Opponents argue that the timing would be too short for employers to fully educate workers about unions, while supporters claim the current amount of time employers have is being used to essentially “browbeat” employees into voting against unionization.

Collectively, the three organizations, known together as the Joint Poultry Industry Human Resources Council, represent 95 percent of the nation's poultry producers, and their members generate more than 1.3 million U.S. jobs.

The poultry producers' comments to NLRB criticize many provisions of the proposed rule, which they say carries “the unmistakable appearance of a denial of due process and certainly will serve to increase litigation and delay timely elections rather than speed the election process.”

Tom Super, of the National Chicken Council, said the proposed rule is essentially the same as what the NLRB filed three years ago, and that his organization's opposition remains the same.

“Much of the poultry industry is unionized and the union is always trying to force union elections in others,” Super said. “The industry has been fighting these initiatives for decades.”

Super said NCC is concerned that the proposed rule would lead to more litigation over elections. He said, currently, about 90 percent of all elections are conducted under terms agreed to by the parties. “The proposal would make it much more difficult to reach the type of agreements necessary to conduct stipulated or consent elections, increasing the chance that one party would challenge a given election,” Super said.

NLRB has been holding public hearings on the proposed rule. The deadline for initial public comments on the plan ended on April 7, and reply comments were due on April 14. The NLRB received tens of thousands of comments.

The proposed rule would also require nonunion employers to turn over employee personal information such as home addresses, e-mail addresses, home and cell phone numbers to the union to facilitate contact, and allow workers at a given site to cast ballots even if their eligibility is contested, deferring any legal action until after the election.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argues that the proposed rule is needed to reduce delay in the NLRB election process. “When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportunity to vote,” Trumka said. “But the current NLRB election process is riddled with delay and provides too many opportunities for employers to manipulate and drag out the process through costly and unnecessary litigation and deny workers a vote.”

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