Ruling Could Lead to End of AFL-CIO Raiding Ban

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

A National Labor Relations Board regional director’s ruling could, if upheld by the full board, up-end a longtime AFL-CIO ban on raids by one member union against another.

In a late-December decision, Sean Marshall, the agency’s acting regional director for the Baltimore-Washington area, said the board should completely disregard the raiding ban in the AFL-CIO Constitution’s Article XX.

The immediate effect was to set up a 3-way Jan. 9 representation election pitting the incumbent United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 against the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333, and no union, at WWL Vehicle Services, a Dundalk, Md., vehicle processing, logistics and marine services firm at the port of Baltimore.

The longer-range impact, if the full board agrees with Marshall, could be to up-end Article XX and throw AFL-CIO unions open to raids by their confederation colleagues. Article XX does not cover relations between AFL-CIO unions and unions in Change To Win.

But one top labor attorney, making clear he was speaking on background, said “the regional director can’t make law.” Currently, the board defers to arbitration of such disputes first, including arbitration under the federation’s constitution, added another veteran attorney, retired UFCW General Counsel Ed Wendel.

UFCW Local 27 and WWL are currently bargaining over a new contract to replace one that expired last year. Both urged Marshall to uphold past precedents. An AFL-CIO-named arbitrator’s ruling, ratified by the federation’s executive council in December, sided with them.

And in his most recent communication to members, posted on its homepage, Local 27 President Jason Chopenning told members at WWL the contract is still in effect while the two sides bargain a new one. WWL employs 150 union workers.

The ILA local responded federal labor law gives the board the final – and only – say over who should represent workers. It also said a NLRB “contract bar,” designed to bar raids, covers pacts lasting three years or fewer. The expired UFCW-WWL contract lasted four years.

Marshall sided with the ILA. “To defer to the Article XX proceeding would impinge on the board’s responsibility to resolve questions concerning representation” of workers, he wrote. “While AFL-CIO affiliates” including UFCW Local 27, and companies they contract with – here, WWL – “are bound by Article XX of the constitution, the board and the employees are not, making Article XX irrelevant to this proceeding.” Marshall then ordered the vote.

Wendel, in an e-mail, said he cannot recall a similar case in his career. He also said when a losing union disobeys a stop-raid order, it leaves itself open to retaliation. The other attorney confirmed that. That occurs if the loser defies the full AFL-CIO Executive Council, after moving through two lower levels of judgement. Another penalty for defying stop-raid orders bars the losing union from using Article XX to defend itself.



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