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NLRB rules in favor of Illinois man to hold vote to scrap union

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An Illinois-based complaint to the National Labor Relations Board has resulted in a union-business agreement being voided that will allow workers to hold a vote next week to decertify the union. 

Employee Robert Gentry won a decision with the board on Oct. 21 that will allow workers at Pinnacle Foods in St. Elmo to hold a decertification vote that workers said the union tried to block. 

In 2018, Gentry petitioned for a decertification vote, but the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881 filed an unfair labor charge against the business, essentially blocking the vote. The NLRB regional director approved an agreement between the union and the business that blocked any attempt to vote the union out for seven months. 

The board ruled that the director’s decision was invalid. 

“Because the Petitioner did not consent to the settlement agreement, we find that the settlement agreement can neither waive the Petitioner’s right to have his decertification petition processed nor delay the effectuation of that right for an extended period of time,” the decision read. “In sum, the agreement by the Employer and the Union to extend the certification year – embodied in the settlement agreement – does not prevent the Regional Director from processing the Petitioner’s decertification petition once the relevant remedial period comes to an end.”

The board announced the union members would hold a decertification vote on Nov. 15. 

The UFCW has had previous disputes with Pinnacle in the past. 

Gentry was aided by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“Although it’s good news that Robert Gentry and his coworkers will belatedly be given the opportunity to exercise their right to remove a union they oppose, this case shows how the so-called ‘settlement bar’ and other ‘bars’ are manipulated by union bosses to trample workers’ statutory rights under federal labor law,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “Union bosses should not be able to trap workers in union ranks on the basis of a settlement to which the workers were not party and to which they had no say.”

Representatives of the UFCW Local 881 did not respond to requests for comment. The union represents more than 34,000 workers in retail food and drug stores throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana, according to its website.

Pinnacle Foods makes Mrs. Butterworth’s, Birds Eye frozen foods, Duncan Hines frosting and cake mixes, among other products.