The D.C. Circuit Court recently upheld the National Labor Relations Board’s determination that a Pennsylvania airplane parts maker violated the National Labor Relations Act by unilaterally withdrawing recognition from a union without objective evidence demonstrating that the union lost the support of a majority of workers.
Wyman Gordon Pennsylvania, LLC (WGP), a manufacturer of aircraft engine components, received a petition to decertify the union from a lawyer from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The petition was signed by 23 of the 43 employees in the bargaining unit. However, the document consisted of only five unnumbered pages, with the first and last pages containing the statement that the “undersigned employees of [WGP] do not want to be represented by [the Union].” The first and last page of the document only contained nine signatures, while the middle three pages that lacked the decertification language contained 14 signatures. In reliance on that petition, WGP unilaterally withdrew recognition from the union.
The D.C. Circuit Court determined that the NLRB’s conclusion that the petition did not pass “evidentiary muster” was supported by substantial evidence. Important to the court was the fact that only nine employee signatures appeared on the first and last pages of the petition, which included the decertification language. The other 14 signatures were, according to the court, “strewn in a haphazard manner across three pages that were just a collection of lines without any information explaining what the document was.” Given the disjoined collection of signatures, the court determined that the Board’s conclusion that there was no objective evidence of the employees’ intent to withdraw from the union was reasonable.
The ruling is a reminder that an employer withdraws recognition of a union at its peril, and will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the union had, in fact, lost majority support at the time the employer withdrew recognition.