Employees at a hospital in Pennsylvania are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn an NLRB regional director’s decision to unionize the workers without their consent.
Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill East’s 160 workers were forced into a union membership with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) through the “accretion doctrine,” a policy that allows the NLRB to unionize a group of employees despite a majority opposing membership.
“This case demonstrates how the National Labor Relations Act, which is ostensibly about the rights of employees, has been weaponized against independent workers who wish to remain free of union bosses’ so-called representation,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “These employees successfully opposed an SEIU organizing campaign at their workplace only to have a union partisan at the NLRB force the union on them without a vote or any showing of interest.”
The accretion doctrine is an exception to the National Labor Relations Act’s general commitment to the employees’ right to choose union membership over self-representation. An employer can unionize a group of workers without taking a vote by adding them to another group of employees already under union representation. As long as the newcomers don’t outnumber the unionized group and won’t compose a separate bargaining unit, the workers don’t have a choice.
Schuylkill East’s workers joined the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill South’s bargaining unit that has been a part of the SEIU for decades.
Schuylkill East’s workers rejected an invitation by SEIU to unionize in 2016. Union organizers could not pull enough support together to file a petition for an election, that needs 30 percent support from the workforce.
The NLRB official who proceeded over the two workforces’ merger into the same bargaining unit, Regional Director Dennis Walsh, served as chairman on the pro-union nonprofit Peggy Browning Fund during a part of his tenure with the NLRB. Walsh was suspended from the NLRB, as well as forced to resign from his position in the nonprofit, after Philadelphia-based construction attorney Wally Zimolong began an investigation that was eventually picked up by the inspector general (IG). The IG found Walsh had misled ethics officials about his involvement with the pro-union group, The Washington Free Beacon reported at the time.
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